Divya Shetty is a Bangalorean actively involved with the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust. One day, the gardeners who worked around the Puttenahalli lake found the Indian star tortoise on the embankment. Soon after, it was rescued and rehabilitated with the help of Bannerghatta National Park. In this article, Divya Shetty describes the rescue operation and rehabilitation of the endangered species. This is an example that shows what citizens can do to protect and preserve wildlife.
On Monday, the 6th of January, when our gardeners came to the lake expecting a day of routine work, little did they know what awaited them. On the revetment was a small tortoise that they had never seen before in our lake. Excitedly, they sent us pictures of the tortoise with a distinctive golden brown star-like pattern on the hard shell. We’d never seen one like it either but there was no mistaking it - it was the Indian star tortoise! Wasn’t it an endangered species? We quickly looked up online and also contacted our in-house wildlife experts, Vishnupriya and J.N. Prasad.
The star tortoise rescued by Divya Shetty
The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans), considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises with its distinctive carapace, is found in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Extensive poaching for the exotic pet trade has reduced their number and threatened their existence.
To keep the tortoise safe, we took it out from the revetment and put it in an open basket. Vishnupriya and J.N. Prasad came by to see our exotic find and to guide us on how to take care of it. They also told us to contact V. Ganesh, RFO, Bannerghatta National Park or Dr. Roopa Satish at the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. We contacted both of them and arranged to send the reptile over. Meanwhile, we got some greens, carrots and cauliflower for it to eat and placed the basket in our office room for the night. The next morning, we shifted our “guest” into a cardboard carton and kept it outside to bask in the sun. We watched quietly as it popped its head out, walked towards the feed and started eating.
The tortoise was handed over to the Forest Department
Two days later, on Wednesday morning, we took it to the RFO’s office and handed it over to him safely. Our job was done. Few days back, we received this update from V. Ganesh:
“The star tortoise is under preliminary medical care at Bannerghatta and will be released to the wild after a week of observation for possible infection due to human contact. Thanks for saving precious endangered wildlife. It makes a huge difference towards protecting the species on this planet.”
(Incidentally, the species is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and it is illegal to have it as a pet.)