B'luru team find new tortoise species in Arunachal

The new tortoise species discovered in Arunachal. PHOTO CREDIT: WCS

Bengaluru-based wildlife researchers on Tuesday reported the discovery of a new tortoise species from Northeast India.

During an expedition in Arunachal Pradesh involving forest officials, the researchers chanced upon two individuals (a male and a female) of the Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) in June 2019 near Yazali of Lower Subansari district.

The discovery is the first record of this tortoise from India, increasing the total number to 29 species of non-marine chelonians (the tortoise and turtle family in common man's parlance) and five tortoises in the country. 

This is an elusive medium-sized tortoise species which inhabits moist primary forests of the hilly tracts of the Indo-Myanmar biodiversity hotspot. 

The joint expedition was carried out by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, Help Earth and Turtle Survival Alliance of the Wildlife Conservation Society-India. 

"The latest sighting further raises the status of the country as well as the state on the list of strategic turtle conservation priority areas," the WCS said in a press statement. The last reported range of the species was from Gwa in Myanmar, where the WCS is carrying out a conservation breeding of this endangered tortoise for further reintroduction into the wild. 

Both the animals were examined, marked and photographed before being released back into the precise location of occurrence. 

This finding highlights the importance of conducting an extensive herpeto-faunal survey in northeastern India, especially in border areas. 

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