Nesting species: olive ridley
Andhra Pradesh is one of the largest maritime states in India; the 980 km coastline extends from Bahuda river mouth near Orissa in the north to Pulicat in the south. The northern Andhra Pradesh coast is rocky with sandy beaches in between; the central coast has river deltas and mangrove swamps, while the southern coast is largely sandy.
Five species of sea turtles–leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, green and olive ridley turtles–have been reported from Andhra Pradesh, but only olive ridleys have been reported to nest in this state. The southernmost mass nesting rookery in Orissa is only 50 km from the Orissa – Andhra Pradesh border and the Andhra Pradesh coast may be an important nesting habitat for olive ridleys. These turtles are known to nest throughout the state (~ 10,000 nests per season) with higher densities along the northern part of the coast. Large numbers have been reported to travel through offshore waters of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh when traveling to and from mass nesting beaches on the Orissa coast.
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There has been growing concern that significant mortality of turtles might occur in breeding migrations due to rapid increase in the intensity of mechanised fishing along this coast. Surveys conducted showed that evidence of sea turtle awareness was apparent from different historical and social aspects of the local communities. There is a temple dedicated to turtles at Srikurmam near Srikakulam in northern AP; the deity Kurmanaswamy of the temple is believed to have originated from the sea of this area. For this reason people do not kill turtles or eat turtle eggs in this area.
A major role is played by coastal development in the mortality of sea turtles. This includes pollution from major industries, urban sewage, and sand mining. Studies have also found that beach lighting along the coast is contributed by village and street lights and to some extent from shrimp farms. Casuarina and Palmyra plantations close to the beach render the habitat unsuitable for nesting and provide shelter to predators of eggs and hatchlings, particularly jackals. The government of Andhra Pradesh has also begun to plan the building of new harbours which are likely to result in the increase in fishing craft and gear, and fishing operations, leading to increased fisheries related mortality.
Community based and other local non-governmental organisations have played a key role in generating awareness, conducting surveys and carrying out conservation activities along various stretches along the state’s coast. For example, Green Mercy, an NGO based in Srikakulam carried out intensive surveys in 2001 and held, and continue to hold consultative meetings with fisherfolk and local communities. The Visakha Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also been a key player, carrying out activities such as sterilisation programmes of feral dogs that could significantly reduce the threat of egg and hatchling predation.
In order to overcome the threats currently faced by turtle populations along this coast, recommendations include enforcement of existing laws (the Andhra Pradesh Marine Fishing (Regulation) Rules of 1995 prohibiting the use of 15 m mechanised vessels within 8 km of the coast and larger vessels within 25 km) and encouraging the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs), in particular by the State Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kakinada.
Source: Tripathy, B, K. Shanker & B.C. Choudhury. 2006. Sea turtles and their nesting habitats along the Andhra Pradesh coast. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 68–87.Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Kar, C.S. 1983. Marine Turtles in Andhra Pradesh. Hamdyrad 4(2): 2–3.
Raja Sekhar, P.S. & M.V. Subba Rao. 1993. Conservation and management of the endangered olive ridley sea turtle, Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz), along the northern Andhra Pradesh coastline, India. B.C.G. Testudo 3(5): 35 –53.
Priyadarshini, K.V.R. 1998. Status, ecology and management of olive ridley sea turtles and their nesting habitats along north coastal Andhra Pradesh. A WWF-India, Conservation Corps Volunteer Annual Report (Jan 1997 to June 1998). 51 pp.
Nath, P.K. 2000. News from the states: Andhra Pradesh–In situ conservation at Visakhapatam. Kachhapa 2: 14.
Tripathy, B. & B C. Choudhury. 2001. Sea turtles and their nesting beaches along the Andhra Pradesh coast, India: A status survey. A GOI-UNDP Sea turtle project report report. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
Sankar, B.O. & M. Ananth Raju. 2003. Implementation of turtle excluder device in Andhra Pradesh. Kachhapa 8: 3–6.
Tripathy, B., K. Shanker & B.C. Choudhury. 2003. Important nesting habitats of olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) along the Andhra Pradesh coast of eastern India. Oryx 37(4): 454–463.
Tripathy, B, K. Shanker & B.C. Choudhury. 2006. Sea turtles and their nesting habitats along the Andhra Pradesh coast. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 68–87.Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Green Mercy, Srikakulam
Visakha Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, Visakhapatnam
TREE Roots & Shoots, Nellore