Indian turtles die on railways

This video is about spotted pond turtles.

From Wildlife Extra:

130 turtles trapped by railway line in India

Railways and roads create deadly barriers for some wildlife

July 2012. Conservationists working on the Wildlife Trust of India‘s WTI’s project to mitigate elephant mortality due to train hits found a total of 128 turtles [like spotted pond turtles] trapped on the 33 km long railway track stretch in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.

128 turtles trapped – 30 dead

Subrat Behera from the Wildlife Trust of India says the turtles climbed on to the track over the levelling pebbles and were trapped between the two rails, unable to climb out. Out of the 128 individuals, 30 were dead and the rest were found struggling to escape. These live turtles were collected and released in the nearby water body called Tiger Taal.

Across the globe, railway tracks and highways cut across forests and are a cause of large number of animal deaths every year.

Smaller numbers of large animals cause outrage

“The larger animals, like elephants and tigers in India, when involved in such accidents evoke great public outrage. There is research on mitigation measures to prevent these but smaller animals die in much larger numbers. There are no studies to show the number of casualties or species affected,” says Behera.

In Dudhwa, the presence of two rivers, Suheli and Mohana, and several standing water bodies provide suitable habitat to turtles. A lot of these water bodies are present in the vicinity of the railway tracks. The life cycle of freshwater turtles include terrestrial movements such as nesting migrations and some to avoid unfavourable environmental conditions. During the nesting season female turtles leave wetlands and may have to cross roads and railway tracks in search of suitable nesting areas.

“The impacts of turtle mortality incidents are detrimental as turtles are long lived, have late sexual maturity and low juvenile survival rate,” adds Behera. “This mortality in railway track is believed to contribute to population decline and local extirpation in the long run unless urgent attention is paid.”

Unfortunately, scientific studies and management actions concentrate more towards large and charismatic species, while herpeto-fauna is often neglected or paid very little attention. A detailed study is required to understand the cause of turtle movement over the railway track and in assessing impacts of the railway track upon the turtles. This can help authorities in taking appropriate management measures.

“Low barriers can be designed to prevent turtles from climbing on to the tracks,” says Dr Anil Kumar Singh, Deputy Director, WTI. “Underpasses at regular intervals will allow access to habitats on the other side of the track. But their usage and impact will have to assessed.”


Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups existing – older than lizards, snakes and crocodiles. After having survived more than 250 million years, turtles are now in danger. Of the 263 species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles, 117 species are considered Threatened, 73 are either Endangered or Critically Endangered and 1 is Extinct.

Turtles face many threats, including habitat destruction, harvesting for consumption and pet trade. Asian species are the most endangered, their high extinction risk is primarily due to the long-term unsustainable exploitation of turtles and tortoises for consumption and traditional Chinese medicine, and to a lesser extent for the international pet trade.

January 2013. In two separate incidents, at least 8 elephants have been killed by trains in India, and several more wounded: here.

August 2012. Research by TRAFFIC has identified the island province of Hainan as a major hub for the illegal trade in marine turtles in China. A survey in 2009 found significant levels of marine turtle trade, which had not declined by the time of a follow-up survey in April this year: here.

August 2012. A much wanted, suspected notorious illegal wildlife trader and poacher has been caught red handed carrying a Tiger skin and skeleton, two live turtles, ivory and some poaching equipment in Haryana, India. The arrest was made in August 2012 in Gurgaon, Haryana, during a joint operation undertaken by Wildlife SOS, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority), WCCB (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) and Haryana Forest Department with assistance from the Haryana Police: here.

Usual Populations, Unusual Individuals: Insights into the Behavior and Management of Asian Elephants in Fragmented Landscapes: here.

6 thoughts on “Indian turtles die on railways

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