Distribution : Andhra Pradesh
The Andhra coast ranges from Bahuda on the southern coast of Odisha to Pulicat Estuary at the Tamil Nadu border covering about 1000 km. Four species of sea turtles – leatherback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles – have been reported from Andhra Pradesh. Amongst these, only olive ridley turtles nest on this coast and are affected by the problems of urbanisation, sand-mining and predation of eggs and hatchlings.
Sea turtles are worshipped in the state of Andhra Pradesh as elsewhere along the coast of India. However, ‘Srikurmam’ (kurma meaning turtle in Sanskrit) at Srikakulam is the only temple of its kind in the world dedicated to ‘kurmanaswamy’, the turtle incarnation of Lord Vishnu. A community of fishers from the Agnikula Kshatriya caste near the East Godavari region describe themselves as belonging to the ‘kurma
Satish Bhaskar surveyed the Andhra coast in 1982 to find out if turtles nested in densities similar to Odisha in the northern Andhra region. On his surveys, he did not see any evidence of mass nesting but noticed that, like Odisha, adult turtles caught at sea were shipped to West Bengal for trade. There was a fair amount of consumption of turtle eggs all across the coast.
Vishakhapatnam is where the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy are located, has been a centre for conservation action in Andhra Pradesh. Vishakhapatnam Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (VSPCA), which has been involved with the protection of the nesting beaches in Vishakhapatnam and at other sites in northern Andhra Pradesh. Historically, most conservations efforts have been concentrated in the northern coast; however, in recent years, organizations such as TREE Foundation from Tamil Nadu have been working on the southern coast.
The earliest record of turtles from Andhra Pradesh is by Prof. S. Dutt, Head of the Department of Marine Sciences, Andhra University at Vishakhapatnam about the capture of turtles every day in the winter of 1978-79. He suggested that turtles being caught before they came ashore to nest could explain why there were few records of nesting from the region (Dutt 1979).
When the arribada did not occur in Gahirmatha in 1982, Satish Bhaskar decided to explore the northern Andhra coast. He covered a distance of about 225 km and counted about 444 olive ridley nests, but found no evidence of an arribada even in the northern parts of Andhra, about 50 km from Rushikulya where mass nesting was discovered a decade later. On this survey, he also found a hawksbill hatchling in a shore seine net and learnt that juvenile hawksbills were frequently stranded on the coast of Odisha, Andhra and Tamil Nadu, but there was no evidence of nesting (Bhaskar 1982).
Between 1983 and 1987, PS Raja Sekhar of Andhra University conducted a comprehensive survey of all of Andhra coast as a part of his doctoral research. He documented about 800 nests across the coast, most of which were depredated by humans and animals. He documented the capture of turtles during courtship and mating from 1984-87 on the northern Andhra coast and also enumerated dead turtles on the coast (Raja Sekhar 1983). He conducted similar surveys in the mid-1990s and found that the turtle trade had either reduced or stopped, but turtles continued to wash ashore in large numbers.
In 1983, RJ Rao of the National Chambal Sanctuary, working on freshwater turtles, reported nesting from Hope Island near Kakinada. He reported depredation of eggs and consumption of turtle meat in the region. He recommended that the Hope island area be included in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary for saltwater crocodiles (Rao 1983).
S. Biswas from the Zoological Society of India reported the occurrence of sea turtles in Lawson Bay at Waltair, an important fish landing centre on the Andhra coast. He noted that the seabed in that region had pastures of seagrass and algae on the rocky substrate. Olive ridleys were most common, but green and hawksbill turtles were also frequently encountered (Biswas 1982).
Vishakhapatnam Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:
VSPCA is an associate member of the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) and is recognised by the Animal Welfare Board of India. It was set up “for the promotion of
VSPCA's Vizag hatchery
Vizag beach after cyclone Hudhud
Trash on the beach
Talking to fisherment about abandoned nets
Key figures in turtle conservation and research in Andhra Pradesh
Sources and References
Tripathy, B, K. Shanker and B.C. Choudhury. 2006. Sea turtles and their nesting habitats along the Andhra Pradesh coast. Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (
Bhaskar, S. 1982. Sea turtles of northern Andhra Pradesh, India. Report to the WWF-India. 6 p.
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
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.
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. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.