A chance rescue by a forest ranger in Arunachal Pradesh's remote jungles of Yazali last week has created a sensation after a photo of the critically-endangered catch went viral in conservationist circles. The pair of tortoises discovered were identified as the 'Impressed Tortoise', which is found in Southeast Asia, but never seen in India before.
Scientifically known as - Manouria impressa - the rare specimens were found in the jungle, about 1,700 kilometres away from its nearest known habitat in Western Myanmar.
"This is the first-ever recorded sighting in India of this tortoise which is on a red list of threatened species - the discovery though was by chance," said forest ranger Bunty Tao.
"I saw it with two boys who were taking it home and seized it immediately. In life, I had never seen such tortoise, so I thought it should be rare, so I posted the pictures in WhatsApp groups for identification," he added.
Guwahati-based herpetologist Jayaditya Purkayastha, who identified the tortoise told NDTV, "This is something that social media has changed - getting and sending information has become easier. One Mr Bhatt sent me the photos. I identified it and also got it confirmed from the Turtle Survival Alliance and International Union for Conservation of Nature."
While a team of experts went to Yazali to further photograph and examine this rare find, the Turtle Survival Alliance -- organisation working towards tortoise conservation -- described it as a 'critically endangered' tortoise species which was elusive, vulnerable, and most importantly, never been sighted in India. It hailed it as a landmark moment in turtle conservation.
"The implications of the finding is big since always in our country in conservation action plan lesser animals are sidelined, always the focus is on elephants, tigers or rhinos and may be this discovery will create an impact, very little may be but a perception change might come and more researchers will join in turtle conservation," Mr Purkayastha added.
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