11 tortoises rescued from Mysore college

The reptiles were 'illegally' held in captivity for research

11 tortoises rescued from Mysore college

Forest officials have rescued 11 tortoises kept “illegally” at the Yuvaraja’s College (Autonomous) here for a research project sanctioned by the State government.

Rearing tortoises or keeping them for research purpose is against the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Embarrassed authorities of the college have recommended disciplinary action against the chairperson of biotechnology department, R Chandavar Vidya, who had brought the tortoises.

On May 5, a team of forest officials led by M Shivappa, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Wildlife, Mysore, visited the college and demanded an explanation for keeping the tortoises for research, but the college principal, H Nanje Gowda, claimed ignorance.

It later emerged that the tortoises were kept by Vidya who was earlier a professor in the zoology department. She is the principal investigator of a project sanctioned by State government’s department of science and technology.

Summoned later, Vidya is said to have stressed that she had kept the tortoises for research only after taking “necessary” permission from the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Bangalore, in September 2013. Forest officials demanded to see the letter of permission.

The next day (May 6), Vidya produced it when officials visited the college. In the letter to the deputy conservator of forests, Mandya and Hassan divisions, the then PCCF G S Prabhu clearly stated: “Permission has been accorded to Chandavar Vidya R to collect one ml of blood samples of turtles, Melanochelys trijuga and Lissemys punctata, for research purposes without harming or killing the turtles, and releasing the turtles into their habitat soon after drawing the blood sample with proper medication from six samples in different months. The permission is valid for one year from the date of issue. The samples may be collected in the districts of Mandya and Hassan.”

The forest officials noted that 11 tortoises had been kept whereas the permission was only for six. The tortoises were kept in a sump next to the department of botany; eight of them belong to a hard shell species and three to a smooth one. They were later released at Gende Hosahalli bird sanctuary in Mandya district.

Gowda claimed the HoD in question had kept the animals without even bringing the matter to the notice of the animal ethics committee headed by the chairman of zoology department.

“The procedure is, in such cases, the committee should be kept in the loop. Although the principal invigilator claims to have sought permission from the principal’s office in March, there are no relevant documents to substantiate her claim,” he told Deccan Herald.

Gowda further said he had issued a show-cause notice to Vidya and recommended to the Vice-chancellor, University of Mysore, Prof K S Rangappa, to take disciplinary action against her. The HoD’s reply to the notice is unsatisfactory, Gowda said.

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