by Meera Bharadwaj
A new tortoise species has been discovered by forest officials and scientists in Arunachal Pradesh, the north eastern state of India.
This is an elusive and medium sized tortoise species inhabiting moist primary forests of the hilly tracts of the Indo-Myanmar biodiversity hotspot.
In a joint expedition of the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, Help Earth and Turtle Survival Alliance/ Wildlife Conservation Society-India – a male and a female of the Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) was observed this month.
Scientists and officials saw this species near Yazali of Lower Subansari District of Arunachal Pradesh. With this, the total number of tortoise species increases to 29 of non-marine chelonians and five tortoises in the country.
The latest sighting further raises the status of the country as well as the state in the list of strategic turtle conservation priority areas. Both the animals were examined, marked and photographed before releasing them back at the precise location of occurrence.
The last reported range of the species was from Gwa in Myanmar where TSA/WCS is carrying out a conservation breeding program of this endangered tortoise for further reintroduction into the wild.
The survey team comprised Bunty Tao and Dr Bharat Bhushan Bhatt of Arunachal Forest Department, Dr Shailendra Singh and Arpita Dutta from Turtle Survival Alliance/ Wildlife Conservation Society-India and Dr. Jayaditya Purkayastha from Help Earth.
Picture credits: Shailendra Singh
- On the IUCN Red List of Threatened species
- Live in evergreen bamboo forests of SE Asia
- The species has golden brown shell/skin
- Lives up to high elevations of 2000 meters
- Have a flattened shell with strong serrated edge
- Spends most of its time under leaves in the forest floor
Significance of Discovery
- The discovery of the Impressed tortoise is the first record of this species from India.
- This finding emphasizes the importance of conducting extensive herpeto-faunal survey in northeastern India in the border areas.
- Future surveys will be carried out near the area of occurrence and locations prioritized from interviews with locals from the area, leading to an ecologically viable population of the species in the area.