A project of Wildlife Survival Fund: Investing in endangered species before it’s too late.



Geographic Location

Nagshankar Temple in Sonitpur District, Assam, India

Focal Species

Black softshell turtle

IUCN Red List Status of Focal Species

Extinct in the wild

About the Project

Conserving the Black Softshell Turtle, Nilssonia nigricans, in Assam, North-east India
The Black softshell turtle is a critically endangered species endemic to North-eastern India and Bangladesh. The species was thought to be extinct in the wild and restricted to a few temple ponds in the region. However, preliminary surveys indicate that remnant wild populations numbering less than 500 adults occur near these temples. 

N. nigricans colonies in the ponds of Assam’s ancient temples are subject to deplorable husbandry conditions. These ponds are eutrophic, overcrowded and lack basking spaces. Feed provided by temple authorities and offered by visitors to the turtles includes fruit, cakes, puffed rice and glucose biscuits. Resultantly, captive softshells are in poor health. A lack of nesting sites also means that adult females either drop their eggs in the water or oviposit, often dying, in inhospitable areas. This results in no neonate recruitment and the removal of nesting females from captive populations.

In 2013, Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) added basking and nesting spaces and a modest headstarting facility at one such temple pond, the Nagshankar temple in central Assam. Consequently, 22 eggs were found and successfully hatched. These hatchlings are being reared for a forthcoming pilot release. Population estimation, installation of educational signage and educational workshops were also achieved last year.

To sustain and expand efforts at Nagshankar Temple, TSA will focus on husbandry improvements, expansion of the headstarting facility, renovation of a defunct kitchen into an education kiosk, and reconnaissance of protected sites to develop a reintroduction plan.


western pond turtle

Turtles at Woodland Park Zoo
Zoo visitors will find a variety of turtle species at Woodland Park Zoo’s Day Exhibit, which explores the diversity of reptile and amphibian species and the threats to their conservation.


To learn more:

Read the reptile and amphibian fact sheet





©2015 WPZ is a registered 501(c)(3) non profit