Nesting species: olive ridley
Four species of marine turtles–olive ridley turtles, green turtles, hawksbill turtles and loggerhead turtles–have been reported from the West Bengal coast. Current records indicate that the olive ridley is the most common and abundant marine turtle along this coast and is reported to visit Digha, Shankarpur, Junput sand bar, Nayachar and the sea-facing islands of the Sunderbans. The nesting season lasts between December and March. Most of the nesting beaches in West Bengal are devoid of permanent human habitation, but they are regularly visited by a large number of fisherfolk, particularly during the nesting period. Some sections of the coast have also been developed as tourist spots and are regularly visited by large number of tourists. Tigers, wild boars and water monitor lizards have been identified as predators of nesting females or their eggs in the Sunderbans.
Although no evidence of active turtle fishing was found in a 2000 survey, a survey in 2001 reported that turtles were caught along the coastline from Kakdwip to Medinipore, avoiding landing centres which are inspected by forest department officials. Turtle meat is sold mainly at interior markets, such as Sopna and Chowrangee. To control the clandestine trade of turtles, regular raids and seizures are made by the state forest department in collaboration with the local police. Aquaculture has encouraged the unregulated use of shooting nets of small mesh sizes for the collection of tiger prawn seeds. Additionally, pollution from industries along the Hugli river and large scale developmental activities poses a threat to the coastal and nearshore habitats.
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Conservation efforts mainly involve habitat protection, management and control of trade, measures to reduce incidental catch, awareness programmes and legislations. Project Tiger authorities have established two hatcheries at Sajnekhali and Bhagabatpur in the early 1980s. The eggs collected along other parts of the coast like Mechua, Kalash and other islands were taken back to these hatcheries for incubation. In an attempt to introduce in-situ conservation, in 2000-01 the forest department fenced the nests in Mechua Island. The Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, declared in 1989 offers a higher degree of protection to the nesting beaches within it. However, no other areas have been declared as protected, and while the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 applies to scheduled species even outside of protected areas, the marine turtles that visit these beaches continue to face threats.
Source: Roy Chowdhury, B., S.K. Das & P.S. Ghose. 2006. Marine turtles of West Bengal. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 107–116. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Biswas, S. 1982. A report on the olive ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholts) (Testudines: Chelonidae) of the Bay of Bengal. Records of the Zoological Survey of India 79: 275–302.
Silas, E.G., M. Rajagopalan & S.S. Dan. 1983. Marine turtle conservation and management: A survey of the situation West Bengal 1981/82 & 1982/83. Marine Fisheries Information Services T & E Series 50: 24–33.
Saha, D. 1986. Olive ridley turtle, Lepidochelys olivacea, of the Sunderbans, West Bengal. Environment & Ecology 4(1): 172–174.
Banerjee, R. 1988. The occurrence and captive rearing of the turtle Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz) in Sundarbans. In: Proceedings of the Symposium on Endangered Marine Animals & Marine Parks, Cochin (Ed. Silas, E.G.), pp. 242-247. Marine Biological Association of India, Cochin.
Gani, M.O. 2000. The olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) of Sundarban coast. Tigerpaper 27(3): 7–11.
Roy Chowdhury, B. 2001. Survey of nesting beaches in West Bengal – A preliminary report. Kachhapa 4: 12–13.
Roy Chowdhury, B. 2001. A short survey on sea turtles in West Bengal. A GOI-UNDP sea turtle project report. Nature Environment & Wildlife Society, Calcutta, India.
Mukherjee, M. 2006. Coastal pollution in West Bengal: Implications for olive ridley turtles. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 393–400. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Roy Chowdhury, B., S.K. Das & P.S. Ghose. 2006. Marine turtles of West Bengal. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 107–116. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), Calcutta