India: Helping 540 turtles get back home to the wild




By Shakuntala and Debashish Majumdar, Thane SPCA


Two consignments of 540 Indian Soft Shelled Turtles (Nilssonia Gangetica)  and Spotted Pond Turtles ( Geoclemys Hamiltonii ) were seized by the Mumbai International Airport Air Intelligence Unit. All these Schedule 1 species of turtles were handed over to the Maharashtra Forest Department. The smuggling of these turtles was done in a very cruel manner, which involved packing them in zipper bags, then wrapping them in plastic bags and taping them with transparent adhesive tapes. Various wildlife offences were lodged with the jurisdictional magistrates. The judiciary then accorded its permission to release the seized wildlife in its natural environs in the respective cases.

3. RAWW volunteers cleaning Turtle Tank


Thane SPCA and RAWW (Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare) started coordinating with the Forest Department from the very first hour of seizing the turtles, with logistical help. While RAWW assisted in the physical distribution of the turtles at Dahanu and Karnala and Thane SPCA’s wildlife veterinarian checked each of these turtles for their physical condition, Thane SPCA also admitted the sick ones to their hospital and started to co-ordinate for the most suitable spot for the release of the turtles. This would be the first interstate repatriation of rescued aquatic turtles in the country and needed intense coordination between all parties involved. Finally, Turtle Survival Alliance, an organization dedicated to saving turtles, was identified as the agency for the translocation.


The Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Uttar Pradesh, accorded his approval for translocation and rehabilitation of the seized turtles at Kukrail Facility, Lucknow, from where, after a suitable quarantine, the turtles would be released in the Sarayu River.

7. Packing Turtles


The translocation was carefully planned for May 23, 2015, which happens to be World Turtle Day. To prepare the turtles for the long journey tomorrow (courtesy Air India) each of them were numbered, checked by Dr Deepa Katyal, our wildlife veterinarian and packed individually in netted bags. Each turtle was adequately hydrated and kept comfortably in well ventilated crates. 23 such crates were prepared. They will be hydrated every four to five hours until their unloading at the Cargo point tomorrow. Thane SPCA is privileged to carry the turtles to the airport in their ambulance at the request of the Forest Department.

9. Packed for air lifting


Five weeks after they were seized, the turtles will swim free in their own natural habitat, thanks to the incredible example of co-operation between Government departments and the Non Governmental sector, dedicated to saving the lives of these small creatures, so vital for the health of our ecology.


We wholeheartedly thank the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Thane Shri K. Thakre and the staff of the Forest Department, the PCCF and CWW (Wildlife), Uttar Pradesh, the officers of Turtle Survival Alliance, Air India and the staff and volunteers of Thane SPCA and RAWW for making this relocation an unprecedented success.


Top photo: Howard Cheng / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / Spotted Pond Turtle.

Second photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA / RAWW volunteers cleaning a turtle tank.

Third photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA / Courtesy of Thane SPCA / Counting, numbering and packing the turtles.

Fourth photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA / Turtles all packed and ready for airlift.


To visit the website of Thane SPCA, click here 


To visit the Facebook page of RAWW, click here 


Thane, India: Thane SPCA opens a new raptor center


Kite transfer3


By Thane SPCA


Many will remember the Raptor Hermitage Initiative taken up by Thane SPCA in the month of March 2014. We suggested that the Forest Department allow us to use the dilapidated cages within the Karnala Sanctuary for Raptors to rehabilitate before they take flight. They agreed only if we donate the funds to them!! We raised funds for this with much difficulty and made the cage brand new.

The revamped raptor cage was inaugurated on August 22, 2014 by Local MLA Vivek Patil in the presence of Addl Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Conservator of Forests along with Team Thane SPCA. Twelve Black Kites were transferred from Thane SPCA Animal Hospital to this cage for rehabilitation till they will be fit to fly. One fresh water turtle has also been transferred to give company to the lonely turtle inside the turtle pond.

Thane SPCA has guided the Forest Officials about the caretaking of these birds. Thane SPCA and RAWW members will be following up closely with the Karnala forest officials about the upkeep of these birds for the next two to three months.

As and when the birds grow their flight feathers (which they have lost because of their injuries), they will be released in our presence and in the meanwhile the birds which are still under treatment at Thane SPCA and will need rehabilitation, will be again transferred there. This cycle will enable us to receive more birds for treatment and give more space for the injured birds at Thane SPCA.

The birds now have three tiers of perches and ample space to recuperate before their release.

There was some discussion about a Star Tortoise rehabilitation and the Addl PCCF has principally agreed to go ahead with it pending our submission of a Project Report. It will be submitted shortly.

We will be transferring more soft shelled turtles to the turtle pond at Karnala within the next two weeks. For their food, we have also introduced a pair of adult rohu-katla and some fingerlings which will breed there and the feeding cycle will be complete as nature intended. Planning to introduce some imported guppies also. Some water plants will also be introduced, for which we have requested the Go Green Nursery to help us out.


Photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA


To visit the Facebook page of the Raptor hermitage, click here.


India: Olio goes back to the waves

Viraf and Vijay, with Olio

By Thane SPCA, Mumbai, India

Dear Friends,

The last two months has witnessed far too many arrivals of Olive Ridley turtles on the shores of Mumbai. Two of them have been admitted in serious condition at Thane SPCA. Both were severely mauled …leading us to believe that they might have been victims of black magic. We had our third visitor four days back. By far the largest one admitted ( 70 kilograms, 154 pounds), and comparatively the healthiest with only some light bruises on his shoulder; Olio stayed with us for some light medication and dressing. Due to severe shortage of space we had to keep her – yet again – in a 500 litre Sintex tank, used previously by her fellow species patients, Oliver and Olivia. 
In four days her wound almost disappeared, and she was ready for release. During her stay our staff sourced sea water from the local creek in plastic bins, 120 litres at a time every day, to ensure that she was submerged in saline water throughout.

Prior to release our surgeon, Dr. Kiran Shellar, wanted to be sure about her swimming ability, something that has been in his mind since the rescue as to why Olio was washed ashore in the first place. Since there was no way she could swim around in the tank, we searched for two days for a children’s pool or someone’s bathtub, till we realised our member Yatin Mhatre had a small pool in his house where we could test her swimming.

Olio was carried from the hospital to Mr. Mhatre’s home, where she showed our surgeon and the Forest officials present, what a champion swimmer she is. Now she was ready to go back home.

Here was the most difficult situation facing us. Being a Schedule I species,  we needed to co-ordinate with the Forest Department to be present during the release, and the Police for crowd management as well as allowing us entry into any high security areas. Choosing the spot for the release entails thorough research. The mode of transportation and time of release is of vital importance.

A persistent supporter of our work, Mili Gandhi, with her indomitable enthusiasm and knowledge of animals, did all the spade work. Through her we came to know of Mr. Viraf, who as a member of the Yacht Club, arranged for a sail boat, since a motor boat would make too much noise which would disturb the animal.  Mr. Viraf and his friend were kind enough to let us use two of the boats. Mili and Viraf made detailed studies of the exact location for the release where the sea would be at its deepest and which is not frequented by fishing trawlers or fishing boats. The team which was on standby to go out was instructed on the dress code and other essentials.

Olive Ridleys nesting on the beach at Oxaca, Mexico

On November 24, 2011 our ambulance reached the gateway of India at 3 PM. It was carrying Olio in a Sintex tank filled with saline water. When we arrived, we contacted the Police officials stationed there for help. Immediately they deputed a large group to stand around the ambulance till Olio was ready to be shifted. At 3:30 PM, as the winds became favourable, she was shifted from the tank onto a blue tarpauline and with the help of the Forest officials, our staff, and some tourists she was carried to the boat. We had to change boats a little further on. Alan and Debashish did the photography from the second boat, while the rest were with Olio in the first boat for the release.

Olio was a little restless while in the ambulance (she traveled over 100 kilometers, 62 miles, from our hospital in Thane to Gateway of India ) and while being carried to the boat. But Mr. Viraf writes to us : ” Olive was frisky initially, but once we set sail he was as calm as the winds. We opened up the sheets and he (or she) was at complete ease in the boat and would occasionally stretch his neck high and eyes wide open, as I am sure the feeling of the sea breeze made him feel at home. ”

It took the team 50 minutes to reach the spot of release. As our hospital helper Vijay opened up the wraps of the tarpauline, Olio dove straight into the sea, bobbed up once, looked around and disappeared forever.

We would like to especially thank the Yacht Club for allowing us to use their sail boats, Mr. Viraf for the smooth co-ordination of the release, Alan and Debashish for their photography and videography, The Mumbai Police not just for providing us Security, but  also for treating us to hot tea when we most needed it, the Range Forest Department, Thane and Range Forest officer Shri Singh, Mr. Mhatre for keeping vigil on Olio for a day and night by her side at the pool, Mili Gandhi for letting us exploit her time and brain and last but not the least Thane SPCA staff members who fed the Ridley with their own hands, hauled saline water physically from the sea and took turns to keep her moist for four days without a break.

After all this, Olio owes us hundreds of babies somewhere and to be smart not to get caught or washed ashore again.

Top photo: Courtesy of Thane SPCA

Second photo: Claudio Giovenzana – / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license / Wikimedia Commons

To visit the website of Thane SPCA, click here.