The secret life of an endangered species: nesting behaviour of the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska).


Astrid Dedieu-Machicoisne

MSc Student (Adv. Doris Preininger,  Walter Hödl)

Unit for Integrative Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) is a critically endangered species once native to the rivers and estuaries of Bangladesh, Myanmar and North East India. Their habitat and nesting grounds are slowly deteriorating and poaching for meat/egg consumption is a cultural tradition. In 2010 there were an estimate of 30 individuals left in the wild. The same year the Vienna Zoo initiated a conservation programme in the Bhawal national park to study and captively breed these animals in an attempt to save them from the brink of extinction.  Breeding was successful but details of nesting habits remained unclear. Behavioural observations remain difficult as standard camera trapping techniques are not applicable for cold blooded species. Common surveillance cameras provided a viable solution and the equipment was set up on the nesting beach of the Bangladesh field station. In this study I analyse and describe the nocturnal behaviour of four females during two nesting seasons’ (March-April) worth of footage. The aim is to identify any triggers which lead to nesting and how environmental factors affect their behaviour. This study will provide valuable insight on the nesting requirements of a critically endangered species. This information will be directly translated into measures implemented to ameliorate the husbandry and breeding success of Batagur baska and conservation management for the species survival in the wild.