A joint expedition of the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, Help Earth and Turtle Survival Alliance/ Wildlife Conservation Society-India turned lucky when they chanced upon two individuals (a male and a female) of the Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) in June 2019 near Yazali of Lower Subansari District of Arunachal Pradesh. The discovery is the first record of this tortoise from India, increasing the total number to 29 species of non-marine chelonians and five tortoises in the country.
This is the elusive medium-sized tortoise species which inhabits moist primary forests of the hilly tracts of the Indo-Myanmar biodiversity hotspot. The latest sighting further raises the status of the country as well as the state in the list of strategic turtle conservation priority areas.
The last reported range of the species was from Gwa in Myanmar, where TSA/WCS is carrying out a conservation breeding of this endangered tortoise for further reintroduction into the wild.
The survey team consisted of Mr. Bunty Tao and Dr. Bharat Bhushan Bhatt of Arunachal Forest Department, Dr. Shailendra Singh and Arpita Dutta from Turtle Survival Alliance/ Wildlife Conservation Society-India and Dr. Jayaditya Purkayastha from Help Earth. Both the animals were examined, marked and photographed before releasing them back at the precise location of occurrence.
This finding emphasizes the importance of conducting an extensive herpetofaunal survey in northeastern India, especially along with the border areas. Future surveys will be carried out near the area of occurrence and locations prioritized from interviews with locals from the area, leading to an ecologically viable population of the species in the area. The survey team expresses its appreciation for the logistic support provided by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department.