Nesting species: olive ridley
Kerala, the southernmost state on the western coast of India, has a 590 km coastal belt which has a relatively narrow beach broken at many places by rocks, seawalls, inlets and backwaters. While olive ridley turtles have been reported to nest frequently along this coast, green turtles have also been reported to occur along this coast and leatherback turtles were reported to nest at Kozhikode and were also reported to visit the Kollam coast yearly for a period of one or two months. Historical records indicate at the turn of the century, about 40 leatherbacks were caught annually when attempting to come ashore or while at sea. By 1915, they were seen only occasionally, and about two were caught annually. Leatherbacks were also seen frequently near the Thangacheri reef about 3 km offshore and sea turtles were reported round the year at Sacrifice Rock. In recent times, only strandings have been reported from some sites in Kerala.
Consumption of meat is high in the southern districts of Kerala. Turtles are caught at sea and also captured opportunistically when they come ashore to nest. Many turtles (10-100) die each year as a result of incidental catch in trawl nets. A substantial part of the coast has been walled to prevent erosion and this has made these beaches unsuitable for nesting.
There are distinct differences in the attitudes of people towards sea turtles between north and south Kerala. In south Kerala, most turtles that come ashore or get entangled in fishing nets are killed and consumed or sold. In north Kerala, the eggs are poached but the turtles are usually not killed. Fishermen also release turtles when they are caught in their nets. The influence of the Kadal kodathi (sea court), a community-based institution for conflict resolution, has been instrumental in maintaining this tradition. Surveys have found that members of certain Christian communities consume the meat of turtles, though eggs are consumed by all communities. Consumption of turtle meat along the coast is believed to be linked to the migration and arrival of fisherfolk from Tamil Nadu (mainly from Kolachal in Kanniyakumari). While the practice of eating turtle meat has been acquired by some communities, for many traditional Hindu and Muslim communities, there is still an associated religious taboo.
In recent years, there has been an increased interest in sea turtles thanks to the efforts of a group of young fishermen in Kolavipaalam in north Kerala, who have started a sea turtle conservation programme. Other community based organisations also play their part in spreading awareness about the turtles, especially amongst local fishing communities.
Source: Dileepkumar, N. & C. Jayakumar. 2006. Sea turtles of Kerala. In: In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 137–140. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
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Dileepkumar, N. & C. Jayakumar. 2006. Sea turtles of Kerala. In: In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 137–140. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
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Theeram Nature Care Society, Kolavippalam
Green Habitat, Guruvayoor