The giant Asian river terrapin, or batagur (Batagur baska), and the closely related painted batagur (Callagur borneoensis) inhabit estuaries and tidal reaches of medium to large rivers throughout Southeast Asia . Both belong to monotypic genera and represent the largest emydid turtles, reaching a carapace length that may exceed 60 cm. The river terrapin Batagur baska is restricted to the estuaries of the Ganga and Brahmaputra , the Sundarbans (West Bengal) and Bhitarkanika (Orisha). Overexploitation of eggs and destruction of its mangrove habitat poses a threat to this species.
The most important aspects of the biodiversity conservation in the State are as follows:
Protection of Habitat and Control of Poaching of Wild Animals is being given top priority through regular patrolling on foot, elephant back, vehicle and speed boats. The Protection Measures are further strengthen through improvement of communication network (Long distance RT network), supply of improved weapons to the wildlife guards, wildlife squads, Intelligence gathering including strengthening of information network, installation of watchtower at strategic points etc. inside the National Parks and Sanctuaries as well as in the areas important for Wildlife Conservation. Since poaching is always associated with the inter-state and/or international smuggling of the poached product, a regular coordination between various enforcement agencies like BSF, Railway Police, Customs, Director of Revenue Intelligence, Police etc. is a must to control poaching and illegal trade of wildlife products. For this purpose two coordinating bodies comprising the Forest Officers, and representatives of various enforcement agencies has been constituted in North Bengal and South Bengal .
Like canopy opening in monoculture teak plantations, followed by natural or artificial regeneration of grasses and under planting with bamboo and tree fodder species. Development of water holes and wetland development through soil moisture conservation works have been implemented on top priority basis. Regular maintenance of fire lines are given priority to control ground fire. Grassland Management is one of the major activities in the Terai and Dooars Forests . Plantation of indigenous grasses is being regularly done to increase the fodder base of herbivores.
Long term and short term strategies are being implemented to reduce the Man-Animal Conflict. Habitat Improvement Programme in the elephant range is being done regularly. Maintenance and development of corridors of large mammals like elephants has been a key activity. Further, conflict is being reduced through erection of Power fencing, judicious use of tranquilization techniques, driving of wild elephants from human habitation with the help of anti-depredation squads and voluntary squads with the help of local people. Programme of Awareness Generation on wildlife conservation in the forest fringe areas is being taken up to seek co-operation of local people in combating animal depredation.
Management of National Parks and Sanctuaries has taken new dimensions with inclusion of ecological considerations and incorporation of regional planning and regulations in the planning process. Emphasis is also being given to management of Reserve Forests and other lands surrounding Protected Areas in such a manner to reduce biotic pressures on National Parks and Sanctuaries as well as to meet the demands of local people living in the fringe of the forests. It is well understood that programme of Wildlife Conservation will succeed with active involvement and cooperation of local people in planning, implementation and monitoring from the very beginning.
Since 1991, participatory protected area management has been initiated in the fringe villages bordering Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Buxa Tiger Reserve and gradually the eco development programme has been expanded to all the PAs. Eco-development is basically a strategy which aims to conserve biodiversity by reducing the negative impact of people on the PA as well as reducing the negative impact of PA on local people. The efforts are basically to improve the socio-economic conditions of fringe villages through some prioritized, site specific and need base eco activity package, so that their dependence on forest resources is sustainable.
Around 103 eco-development committees and 127 forest protection committees have been formed in the fringe villages of National Parks and Sanctuaries with around 62, 030 members who are protecting more than 1,82,406.24 ha. of forests. The fringe area population around various PAs are now less dependent on the forest resources to earn their livelihood as alternate employment options have been created through eco-development programme in majority of these areas. The local communities are not only coming forward to protect the nearby forests but are also helping the forests staff to apprehend poachers. This active involvement of local people will make the task of bio diversity conservation more effective in the long term.
It is essential to develop linkages/ collaboration between in-situ and ex-situ conservation facilities and broadening the role of ex-situ conservation sites in species reintroduction, habitat restoration and habitat rehabilitation. In West Bengal , the rehabilitation and restocking of some of the endangered wild animals have been initiated like translocation of cheetal deers from South Bengal to some of the PAs of North Bengal. We have translocated around nine hundred Chitals in the forest of South Bengal , Sundarbans and North Bengal . The release of marsh crocodile and batagur baska are being done regularly in the Mangrove ecosystem of Sunderbans. Till date we have released 401 Crocodiles in the various creeks and rivers of Sundarbans to augment the population of this endangered species. Recently we have released two Red Pandas in Singalila National Park and plans are to release more Red Pandas with careful supervision and proper scientific investigations. These programmes are to be continued till these animals are properly rehabilitated and stabilised in the wild.
Regular census of wild animals is conducted in various protected areas as well as in the reserve forests. An essential prerequisite for successful wildlife management is monitoring of investments and evaluation of its effects. Wild animal census is one such management tool. Surveillance and monitoring of wildlife in protected areas across the state is now a regular practice. A formal census regime of tiger population in Project Tiger reserves every two years, and in the rest of the areas every four years, as per guidelines of the Central Government, is strictly followed. Population composition and the dynamics are quite encouraging. Periodic monitoring of forests of the state is done with application of remote sensing and GIS technology for mapping and assessment of bio-resources. Monitoring changes in biodiversity in different ecosystems is recorded regularly and accordingly management actions are implemented to correct the negative impacts.
A priority list of research programme has been prepared for each protected area of West Bengal and different scientific institutions, universities and NGOs are involved to conduct research. Research has been conducted on various aspects of ecological-biological studies on different species, habitat requirement and socio-economic pattern of fringe villages. The scientific survey reports and baseline data on different aspects are included in the management plan which also is updated from time to time based on scientific findings.
Extension of Nature Education and Awareness Generation has been achieved through setting up of Nature Interpretation Centres at various National Parks and Sanctuaries. Various awareness programmes like Film Shows, Slide Shows, Workshops, Nature Camps are being organized with the help of NGOs, Panchayats and local Organizations and Institutions. Publicity Material like leaflets, booklets, brochures, posters, stickers etc. is being distributed among the target groups on the various conservation themes. Emphasis is being given to raise the awareness through Audio-Visual and Electronic Media.