Sea turtles and other marine life in Lakshadweep
Satish Bhaskar. 1978. Hornbill (April – June): 21–26.
Sea turtles of three species occur commonly in the waters around India’s Lakshadweep islands, situated 120-200 miles off Kerala’s coast. A beach walker on Minicoy, the southernmost of the group, will see Green and Hawksbill turtles as they come close inshore to feed, about the time of the high tide. The same may be said of [many] of the remaining 9 inhabited and 16 un-inhabited islands forming the Union Territory. There is a difference however. On the latter islands, turtles are sighted only during the period of the southwest monsoon and, to a lesser extent, in the month following (October). On Minicoy, turtles are seen throughout the year…read more
The riddled ridley – Sea turtles eaten to extinction
Zai Whitaker. 1981. The Indian Magazine (June): 13–25.
“Typical female, cannot make up her mind”, said Rom as we tugged at our coats ineffectively against the cold January wind. This particular lady had kept us waiting a good forty minutes and seemed to be in no hurry to get through with her nesting duties. She had, with reptilian solemnity, dug three trial nest holes already and was now heading ponderously to a fourth site to the north. We flopped down on the sand and decided to forgive her since she was an endangered species. We had been lucky that night. There had been times when we’d walked ten or fifteen kilometres to arrive at every turtle nest too late: to find the V track of its flippers emerging and returning to the sea distorted by those of the commercial egg collector…read more
Turtle slaughter in India
J. Vijaya. 1982. Marine Turtle Newsletter 23:2.
During the winter months, fish markets in West Bengal become turtle slaughter houses. Both freshwater and marine turtles arrive by train, lorry and bicycle in the early morning by the hundreds. Turtle meat is relished by Bengalis: nowhere else in India (except at Tuticorin in the southern state of Tamil Nadu) is there such a scramble for turtles. At 7am on a Thursday morning January, 1982 we arrived at a market in Calcutta, carrying out routine survey work for the Freshwater Chelonian Group of the IUCN. Several Pacific Ridleys were on their backs, eyes bulged from the pressure of being overturned for several days with flippers wired together…read more
Massacre at Digha
Dilip Bobb. 1982. India Today 31: 64–65.
In Mexico, they call it “arribada”, a word coined to describe the peculiar mass-mating characteristic of the Ridley’s sea turtles, a species found mainly in the Indian Ocean. Every year, thousands of flippered [reptiles] would coverge on a particular beach and mate en masse off-shore. Then, while the female sea turtles would ehad for the beach, dig holes in the sand, and lay their golf ball-sized eggs. The process passed off as a tourist attraction till Mexican fishermen discovered the commercial value of the high-protein eggs and the turtle flesh. When the discovery was made, an estimated 40,000 turtles visit the beach each season…read more
In search of Kurma
John G. Frazier. 1987. Span (New Delhi) 28(11): 6–10.
On a sultry August day in 1984, a fateful letter found its way to the top flat of the foreign professors’ hostel in Fujian Teachers University. We were catcing up on field notes made during a two-month trip down the coast of China from Fujian to Hainan, and at the same time sheltering from the furnacelike conditions outside. The letter, from the Indo-American Subcommission on Education and Culture, notified us of the approval by the Government of India for our “Biology and Conservation of Indian Turtles” project…read more.
The ancient mariners
Kartik Shanker. 1996. Resonance April 1996.
Sea turtles are a fascinating group of marine reptiles that evolved millions of years ago. They show an intriguing variety of strategies to deal with their aquatic mode of life. Their migrations are legendary, and the mass nesting of the Ridleys is one of nature’s most extraordinary spectacles. The eight species are all endangered due to human activities. While some have been exploited for meat, others have suffered due to factors such as pollution. This article details some of the more interesting aspects of their life history and examines their decline in recent times...read more
Guest editorial: The future of ridley arribadas in Orissa: From triple waste to triple win?
Nicolas Mrosovsky. 2001. Kachhapa 5: 1–3.
I am grateful to the editors of Kachhapa for their invitation to give an outside perspective on the arribadas of olive ridley turtles in India. From a distant viewpoint what I see is waste, waste, and waste. The first waste is that of adults, often in reproductive condition full of eggs, caught in fisherman’s gear, some dead already, others killed to disentangle them from nets, carcasses washed ashore, bloated, rotting. These animals might have contributed to augmenting the next generation of turtles…read more
Guest editorial: The swampland of sea turtle conservation: In search of a philosophy
Kartik Shanker. 2001. Marine Turtle Newsletter 95: 1–4.
The search for an environmental ethic is a relatively recent endeavour in comparison with other branches of philosophy, and the deeper questions regarding the intrinsic value of nature and our relationship with it have yet to be resolved (Hargrove 1989). Meanwhile, the needs of conservation are pressing and cannot wait the resolution of these questions. However, in order to “look ahead intelligently and behave ethically”, all of us need to examine some questions periodically, even if the answers are complex and layered…read more
Seeking a brighter horizon
Kartik Shanker. 2003. Srishti September 2003.
A tiny hatchling scrapes open its shell with its little egg tooth and scrambles out into a sandy world. Two inches long and weighing less than 20 grams, it finds itself one and half feet below the sand and in the company of a hundred other pushing, heaving hatchlings. The hatchlings wait as their siblings proceed to shed their cacareous coats. A while later, the temperture drops-it must be night in the outside world, dark enough for the freedom-run to the sea…read more
Voyages of the leatherback
Kartik Shanker. 2003. Sanctuary Asia (April): 16–21.
It dives over a thousand metres beneath the sea, where the lungs of normal air breathing vertebrates collapse. It wanders in arctic and subarctic waters in search of food, surviving freezing temperatures. It maintains its body temperature well over that of the surrounding environment by thermoregulation using layers of insulation. It has a beautifully streamlined body with which it swims powerfully through the water, migrating thousands of kilometres across the open oceans to breed. And it is over two metres long and weighs over 500 kg. This might sound like a whale or some other marine mammal, but the creature answering this description is, in fact, a leatherback turtle…read more.
They lived with dinosaurs
Kartik Shanker. 2009. Down to Earth (Jan): 60.
Sea turtles are magical animals, all the more mystifying because of our ignorance about them. For millions of years, they have wandered the oceans. But today, they are threatened by habitat loss, lighting on beaches, which disorients hatchlings and prevents them from finding the ocean, pollution and consumption of adults and eggs. Fishing-related mortality has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of turtles worldwide: sea turtles are air breathers and when they get accidentally caught in fishing nets, they drown… read more