Conservation workers were reportedly alerted about the incident on Saturday after a local leader asked them to investigate a foul smell around the Gauripada lake in Kalyan area, located 50 kms from the country’s financial capital Mumbai.
Since Saturday at least 135 bodies were recovered, while 11 were found alive and rescued by a team of the forest department and volunteers of Wild Animal Reptile Rescue (WARR), according to local media.
Suhas Pawar of WARR alleged that the local residents have likely killed the reptiles to stop them from eating fishes that are bred illegally in the lake.
“Everything is being investigated now, a post-mortem and scientific analysis will reveal the exact cause of these deaths. Restrictions on human activity likely increased the fish stocks at the lake and these turtles were now growing in numbers by feeding on them, which angered some locals," Mr Pawar told AFP.
He confirmed that all the dead reptiles were Indian flap shell turtles, which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The bodies of two turtles have been sent to Sanjay Gandhi National Park for an autopsy to understand the cause of death, RN Channe, a range forest officer of Kalyan division told Times of India.
Forest officials suspect that drainage water released into the lake from the adjoining slum could also have caused mass deaths. Samples of the water have been sent to a laboratory to certain whether the water body is polluted or contaminated with poison.
The rescue teams are still continuing with their search operation.