India Once Released 25,000 Flesh-Eating Turtles Into the Ganges

A plan to clean up corpses failed due to lack of planning

© Diego Giudice/Corbis

In the late 1980s, India's government announced a plan to release specially bred flesh-eating turtles into the Ganges river. According to Hindu faith, there is salvation in being cremated on the banks of the river and then dumped into it. But sometimes the corpses are only partially burned, and according to the BBC, the corpses of those who cannot afford to be cremated are put in the river, too. 

"Hundreds of years ago, such turtles flourished in the Ganges until they were killed by hunters for meat," the Los Angeles Times reported. "Now, the government has begun breeding them on a farm near Lucknow." The turtles were raised on dead fish, "so that they wouldn't develop a taste for the living," reports Atlas Obscura.

Some 25,000 flesh-hungry turtles, and $32 million dollars later, the plan was a failure, Atlas Obscura reports:

It was plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and though plenty of forethought was put into raising the turtles, not so much attention was paid to seeing that they survived in the wild after their release, and as a result, they were poached and killed in large numbers.

Today, corpse pollution is still a problem for the Ganges. As is turtle disappearance. To protect the population from being depleted by poachers and smugglers, each year over a thousand ordinary turtles are released in into the river.  

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