Ayushi Jain

Conservation Hero Grant 2021

Project Name:

Community-based monitoring and Conservation of Pelochelys cantorii in India (Cantor's giant softshell turtle)

Project Brief:

Pelochelys cantorii, commonly known as Cantor’s Giant softshell turtle, is highly threatened due to many anthropogenic activities like poaching and habitat destruction and is on the risk of extinction. Long overlooked by researchers, this species largely remains a mystery to the scientific community. In 2019, a study-focussed project on the species resulted in confirming the presence of a breeding population of the species, and conservation efforts were initiated in Northern Kerala. However, there is no available information on the species population, and this hinders any conservation strategies nationally as well as globally.

This project will be important to assess the population size through mark-recapture study, for undertaking focussed action to conserve this unique species. A study led by the Ayushi Jain recently resulted in discovering first-ever active nests of the species in the country. Therefore, initiating a community-based nest protection program in collaboration with Forest Departments and other stakeholders is important to take necessary actions to ensure the survival of this species. The project will use the recipient’s previous findings regarding the species’ critical habitat areas, nesting ecology and threats to initiate a locally led conservation action plan by involving community members, local NGO and nature enthusiasts, and training them for long-term monitoring of the species.

Project objectives:
  • Locate other (sub)populations of P. cantorii in Netravati River in Karnataka and Valapattanam River in Kerala through social and ecological surveys.
  • Assess population size of Cantor’s Giant Softshell turtle along the Chandragiri river in Kasaragod, Kerala.
  • Develop and implement strategies to set-up in situ incubation and protection of P. cantorii nests with local co-management.
  • Engage local members and groups in the community-based management and monitoring (i.e. recording hunting, nesting, incidental captures and sand mining from identified critical habitat areas).
Highlights from field:
  • Project yet to commence.