Kendrapara: Forest personnel today retrieved a rare albino turtle held captive by locals who were worshiping the aquatic animal with the belief that it was incarnation of God in a far-flung village in Odisha’s Kendrapara district.
The rare riverine fresh-water turtle was an albino species and it had strayed into a water-body in Kora village under Kendrapra rural police station jurisdiction. Curious residents spotted and caught it alive, said officials.
It’s unconventional look had prompted the people to believe that it was an embodiment of divinity. After putting it on the pedestal of village deity, they were offering puja to it, said Forest Range Officer, Cuttack Territorial Forest Division, Himanshu Sekhar Muduli.
“As it is an endangered animal categorised as scheduled species under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, we rushed to the village early morning and rescued it after prevailing upon the people after much persuasion. They were initially reluctant to give away the ‘prized possession’. The locals were of the firm belief that it is a harbinger of peace and prosperity. However better sense prevailed as they later handed over the albino turtle to forest department”, Muduli said.
Wildlife and revenue officials, who rushed to the place on receipt of the news, were initially chased away by the devotees. However, they gave in after being told that it was an offence to hold captive a scheduled animal. The turtle is an endangered species under schedule-1 category of the Wildlife Protection Act, the range officer said.
The turtle was in a state of distress. It was a case of mistaken identity as albino skin texture gave it a gorgeous look which was different from fresh water turtles sighted along the water-bodies in these parts of the state.
“As the news of sighting of the rare turtle spread, people had made a beeline to catch glimpse of it yesterday.
Many believed that it was a divine messenger. People worshiped it. However, they were later told by forest personnel that it was an offence to subject a turtle to confinement. So respecting country’s law, people were forced to hand it over to officials”, said Harihar Samal, the Sarpanch of Kora gram Panchayat.