Biodiversity Nepal
For the Future Generation

Turtle: Sighting to Plate

I was sure that the turtle will be eaten after I left for Kathmandu. I regret I had the nerve to release the turtle.

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Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines whose iconic characteristics are the presence of shell which acts as a shield. The term ‘turtle’ includes both sea-dwelling and land-dwelling turtles. The common misconception is that turtles and tortoises are different but the thing is that all land-dwelling turtles are called tortoise.

So we can say that all tortoise are turtles but not all turtles are the tortoise. There are currently 353 known species of turtles alive today of which many are endangered. In Nepal, there are 17 species of turtles among two that are critically endangered.

Elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) is critically endangered. Photo by Sabin Adhikari (TRCC)

My love for turtles started at an early age. It is safe to say that my love for animals started with turtles. I hadn’t encountered one in the wild but I loved watching them on TV. My first encounter with the turtle in the wild was not a pleasant one.

The incident takes us to Jhapa. Me, at a young age and my friends, were playing in the rice field, there we say a relatively big sized turtle (sorry don’t know the species). My younger self was very excited but I didn’t have the courage to touch or catch the turtle.

I had a fear that I would get bitten. So I called a neighbor. He carried the turtle home and kept it in a big pot filled with water. I didn’t quite understand why the turtle was kept there. I asked my neighbor and learned that turtles were a great delicacy. I was shocked because I  didn’t even know that the turtles could be eaten. I didn’t like that he would be eaten because I found it. I did request them not to kill the turtle. I was convinced he wouldn’t kill it for a couple of days until I return to Kathmandu.

Tricarinate hill turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata) Photo by  Sabin Adhikari (TRCC)

I’m sure that the turtle was eaten after I went to Kathmandu. Even though I didn’t want the turtle to be killed. I didn’t have the nerve to release the turtle. I regret I couldn’t release the poor turtle.

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