Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 182519786
Conservation of the Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) in Assam, India
The Black Softshell Turtle Nilssonia nigricans is currently classified as Extinct in the Wild by IUCN. However a wild population of N. nigricans was rediscovered in the Brahmaputra River at Kaziranga and Nameri National Parks of Assam. Subsequent surveys in adjoining areas of Kaziranga confirmed records of the species, however other lesser known protected areas are still neglected and yet to be surveyed. Through this research project, a team of researchers will survey four protected areas of Assam along the Brahmaputra River for N. nigricans populations in order to update the conservation status of the species. These unexplored protected areas are also conducive to harbour a rich diversity of up to 20 species of freshwater turtles and fall within a Global Turtle Priority Area and a top Turtle Biodiversity Hotspot, thus offering the best chances of conserving rare and endangered turtle species.
Given that more than 50% of freshwater turtle species are threatened with extinction today, the need of the hour is to understand the occurrence and current status of endangered species to formulate conservation strategies, and to protect the species and their floodplain habitats. Increased knowledge of such rare species will help fill in gaps in their life history and the development of identification keys which will improve participation of citizen science in mapping the distribution of this species, resulting in an updated assessment of the current status and distribution of N. nigricans. By also establishing networks with local fishermen and stakeholders we can understand drivers of turtle extirpation, that may be related to threats such as hunting and poaching and inform future conservation and management interventions.