The best “points of access” to help Batagur populations to recover, are the nesting beaches that are critical to sustain populations and ensure survival. Monitoring nesting beach activity is generally the only opportunity to determine wild population numbers. The annual emergence of females to lay eggs on well-known and often historic nesting beaches is the most vulnerable stage of their annual life cycle, and it is here where protective conservation measures have proven the most effective. This conservation program will focus on these nesting beaches using tried and tested conservation techniques – guarding females, protecting the eggs and often moving them to safe areas for incubation, and collecting hatchlings as they emerge from the nest. In the National Chambal River Sanctuary in India, thousands of both Batagur kachuga and Batagur dhongoka nests are saved annually by moving them to protected hatcheries where the eggs are safe from jackal predation. An estimated 80% of those nests would be lost without this programme, and today tens of thousands of hatchling Batagur are released into the river.
Raising hatchlings in captivity until they are large enough to avoid predation – a technique known as headstarting – is being used successfully in Batagur conservation programs in India, Myanmar, and Cambodia. However, in the case of the Sunderbans River Terrapin, Batagur baska, no active nesting beaches are known in either India or Bangladesh, so the reliance is on captive breeding to restore populations. By establishing assurance colonies of this species survival can be assured and options maintained for their recovery once protected habitat can be identified. Most Batagur species are considered conservation dependent, meaning their populations would not persist without these intensive recovery efforts. By ensuring survival of both eggs and hatchlings, and protecting nesting females at this extremely vulnerable stage of their life cycle, this project will guarantee the next generation of river terrapins.