Indian temple helps nurture ‘extinct’ turtle back to life

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The northeastern state of Assam was once rich in freshwater turtles, but habitat loss and over-exploitation — they were once an abundant and popular local food — has massively depleted their populations. (AFP)
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The black softshell turtle is officially extinct in the wild but a centuries-old temple in India, the adjoining pond and its nature-loving caretaker are helping it make a tentative comeback. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019
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Indian temple helps nurture ‘extinct’ turtle back to life

  • The northeastern state of Assam was once rich in freshwater turtles, but habitat loss and over-exploitation depleted their population
  • The black softshell turtle was declared extinct in the wild in 2002

HAJO, India: The black softshell turtle is officially extinct in the wild, but a centuries-old Indian temple and its nature-loving caretaker are helping the creature make a tentative comeback.
The northeastern state of Assam was once rich in freshwater turtles, but habitat loss and over-exploitation — they were once a popular local food — have massively depleted their population.
The black softshell turtle was declared extinct in the wild in 2002 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the Indian softshell turtle and the Indian peacock softshell turtle are classified as vulnerable.
But all the while, the pond of the Hayagriva Madhav temple in the Hajjo pilgrimage center has provided a safe haven, thanks to the sacred status of turtles protecting them from harm.
“There are plenty of turtles in the temple pond,” said Jayaditya Purkayastha, from conservation group Good Earth.
The group has teamed up with the temple authorities in a breeding program.
“The population of the turtle in Assam has gone down by a great extent. So we thought we needed to intervene and do something to save the species from extinction,” he told AFP.

In January his organization’s first batch of 35 turtle hatchlings, including 16 black softshells hand-reared at the temple, was released into a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
A key figure is the caretaker of the temple pond, Pranab Malakar, who long before environmentalists became involved took a keen interest in the turtles’ wellbeing.
“I used to take care of them as I like them. Later, after I became associated with Good Earth, it became my responsibility,” he said.
“No one harms them here as they are incarnations of Lord Vishnu (a Hindu deity). I was born and grew up here. We have been seeing the turtles since our childhood. People respect them,” he said.
Malakar collects eggs laid by the turtles on the sandy banks of the pond — a new concrete bank had to be demolished a few years ago — and gingerly puts them into an incubator.
The project has been so successful that Good Earth has identified 18 other temple ponds in the area which could also be used for similar initiatives.
But it is not without its challenges.
For one thing, some of the hundreds of daily visitors to the temple outside Guwahati throw bread and other food to the turtles — which they clearly like.
“This has triggered some biological changes among the turtles in the pond. They have also lost their natural tendency of hunting for food,” Purkayastha said.


Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

Updated 18 September 2019

Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

  • Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media

CAIRO: Magi Sadeq, 25, is known for keeping a low profile in the media compared to the wives of other footballers. 

The wife of Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah has become something of a celebrity in her own right after appearing with her husband while maintaining a conservative look.

Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media, but sometimes there is no escaping the spotlight for his wife and daughter.

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award. She also appeared with their daughter Makka during celebrations marking Salah’s winning of the Premier League Golden Boot award, and after Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League.

Sadeq was born and raised in Nagrig, a village in Gharbia where Salah was also born. It is the same place where they like to spend their holidays and special occasions whenever they have the chance.

FASTFACT

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award.

She has a twin sister, Mohab, and two other sisters, Mahy and Miram. Their parents were both teachers at Mohamed Eyad Al-Tantawi School, where she met the future Egyptian international.

Sadeq, who maintains a simple lifestyle, fell in love with Salah 10 years before they married. Their love story was the talk of the town where they lived.

They were married in 2013 as the player started taking his first steps in Europe with Swiss football club Basel. They married when he returned home for his first holiday.  

She keeps her husband connected to his rural roots. She doesn’t have any social media accounts, and unlike other footballer’s wives, she is not interested in appearance and makeup. She prefers to wear body-covering conservative clothes.

Sadeq and her twin sister both obtained their degrees in biotechnology from Alexandria University. She is responsible for her husband’s charity work in Egypt. Her neighbors say that she helps in buying the necessary home appliances and other needs of newly married couples. She also supervises charity work and regularly attends the special events staged by her village even though she has been made busier after her husband joined Liverpool.

Salah once said of his wife: “I am unfair to Magi as I give her the least of my time due to the nature of my work. I would like to thank her for her support and for being in my life.”