The black soft-shell turtles were declared extinct in the wild about 17 years ago. However, it would have a really good chance at recovery after an Indian centuries-old Hindu temple has devoted its efforts to help these tiny reptilian creatures to make an amazing comeback.

Once being a paradise for freshwater turtles, Assam has seen its turtle population drop drastically due to habitat loss and over-exploitation as a food source, which caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to declare the black soft-shell turtle extinct in the wild back in 2002, and also classifying the Indian soft-shell and the Indian peacock soft-shell turtles as vulnerable to extinction.

Even though these critters were declared extinct, it has not stopped the nature-loving custodians at the Hayagriva Madhav temple from providing a safe haven to these lovely creatures in the temple’s ponds. Due to the sacred status is given to these amazing creatures as a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu, even the residents are compelled to protect these species.

The turtle’s population has rebounded from its possible extinction to healthier numbers, thanks to the temple’s religious devotees in collaboration with the conservation group Good Earth to nurture dozens of turtles in the temple’s ponds, and the conservation has helped breed these turtles collecting the newly laid eggs from the grounds near the pond, and warming them in an incubator to make sure that they hatch.

This joint effort displayed a notable degree of success in January 2019, when they released 35 turtle hatchlings into the waters of a local wildlife sanctuary. Out of this 35, sixteen were black soft-shell turtles, reared by hand at the temple.

Even though the population has somewhat rebounded from where it was, there are still challenges ahead, such as changes brought about the immense popularity of these critters, with masses of visitors tossing bread and other food items at these little reptiles.