Huge success – turtle whisperer creates breeding miracle in Graz


Styrian Peter Praschag rescued an endangered narrow-mouth softshell turtle straight from an Indian soup pot. 15 years of breeding finally paid off this year.

Eight pairs of eyes peer out of the sand. They wait for a fish to swim by. Then the fastest tongue in the world comes into action and sucks in the prey without us recognizing it. “Currently, we are still catching fish for those smaller than a centimeter,” reveals zoologist Peter Praschag. Even the few narrow-billed softshell turtles are a lot of work for the employees of “Turtle Island” in Graz, perhaps also because there is already a small gourmet among them: “One of the eight young animals with which we feed small pieces of fish tweezers. Canned fish eats like it too.”

The soup pot was ready
That these eight tiny reptiles exist at all is nothing short of a miracle – passion, chance and hard work made it possible. But first we have to look back to North India in 1999: near the Brahmaputra River, fishermen tip off Praschag that a woman had bought the only softshell turtle with a narrow mouth at the market. He locates the buyer and leaves in a rickshaw. He arrives just in time: because the soup pot is already waiting at the Indian woman’s stove.

“The edge of the armor is considered a delicacy and fishermen target the animals around it. They are often illegally imported into China,” explains the Styrian. Because of this, and because their habitat is being destroyed for construction projects, they are threatened with extinction. “It’s hard to say how many specimens there are.” So the zoologist saved the then 2- year-old “Chitra” and legally exported her to Austria.

After 15 years, it worked this fall
Praschag drove to the fish market again and again: “Finding males, getting permission and ensuring that the turtles survive the transport and settle here is a time-consuming and difficult task.” year: “This is the greatest recognition! Year after year we have lost our teeth in it.” Only one other zoo in San Diego (USA) has succeeded. In Graz, eight hatchlings out of 44 eggs survived. “In nature, the turtle lays more than 300 eggs, of which very few survive.” more offspring are expected.The goal is to return him to nature at some point.

His first word as a child was “Kroti”
Where does Praschag get all the energy from? “Even my father had turtles, my first word was ‘Kroti’, as a child I wouldn’t eat without a turtle next to me. When I was four I knew I was studying zoology.” That’s how it came about. Through his efforts, the Styrian has already set up four “Turtle Island” locations in Styria. They are home to the most species-rich turtles in the world. He wants to make it publicly accessible to visitors in the future. “We are still looking investors.”

Source: Krone


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