Nesting species: hawksbill, green, olive ridley

Non-nesting species: leatherback (rare)

The Lakshadweep archipelago is located in the Arabian Sea off the southwest coast of India. It consists of three groups of islands – Amindivi, Lacadives and Minicoy. It has a total coastline of 132 km, a lagoon area of 4,200 sq. km. and territorial waters of 20,000 sq. km. The Lakshadweep islands are the only atolls in Indian waters. The Lacadives, Maldives and Chagos islands are part of a continuous submarine archipelago, and provide important nesting and feeding habitats for sea turtles.

Green and hawksbill turtles are the most common species of sea turtles in the islands’ lagoons. While the olive ridley is reported to be rare in the lagoon, it nests more frequently than hawksbill turtles. The leatherback turtle is occasionally sighted by fishermen, but rarely comes ashore to nest. The occurrence of green and hawksbill turtles in the lagoons adjoining the coral reefs is presumed to be due to the availability of forage. The green turtle is known to feed on seagrass and algae, while hawksbills are a tropical reef-dwelling species that feed on jellyfish, sea urchins, and sponges and may also eat the algae that grows on the reef. In addition to having significant nesting, the Lakshadweep islands may be important developmental and feeding habitats for turtles that nest elsewhere in the region. There have been sightings of leatherbacks by residents more than 20 years ago, but it is not currently encountered at sea or seen nesting.

Lakshwadeep Islands

Many islands in the Indian Ocean including the Lakshadweep islands were historically significant for the hawksbill trade and have been important producers of tortoiseshell products in the past. Although reports indicate that Lakshadweep was an important chelonian fishery in the northern Indian Ocean and was once a centre for the green turtle oil trade as well as the tortoiseshell trade, the intensity of exploitation is not known.

Although these islands are relatively less populated than the coastal states of the mainland of India, numerous threats face turtle populations in these waters. The stuffing of sea turtles is an ancient custom in the islands that is still carried on today. Juvenile hawksbills are caught from the lagoon and stuffed as curios, while adult sea turtles are killed for oil. In some islands, gravid females are also occasionally killed for consumption of unshelled eggs. Developmental activities that are found to impact sea turtles include construction of houses and buildings on nesting beaches, coconut plantations (an important source of income to island inhabitants), coastal illumination and construction of physical structures such as embankments. The islands have also become a favoured tourist destination in the recent past, and tourism related activities along the coast are becoming increasingly predominant threats.









The Department of Environment and Forests, Lakshadweep has banned the killing and poaching of sea turtles following the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 which includes all species of sea turtles in Schedule I, offering them the highest degree of protection. However, due to lack of awareness and limitation of resources for implementing the law, this has found to be largely ineffective. The Lakshadweep Coastal Zone Management Plan of 1997 provides guidelines for developmental activities along the coast. However, despite this, human encroachments, beach illumination and beach armouring continue to pose serious threats to sea turtles and their habitat.

Source: Tripathy, B., B.C. Choudhury & K. Shanker. 2006. Sea turtles of Lakshadweep archipelago, India. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 119–136. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.

Important Publications

Bhaskar, S. 1978. Marine turtles in India’s Lakshadweep Islands. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 8: 5.

Frazier, J. 1980. Exploitation of marine turtles in the Indian Ocean. Human Ecology 8(4): 329–370.

Gardiner, S. 1903. The fauna and geography of the Maldive and Laccadive Archipelago. Cambridge University Press.

Tripathy, B., B.C. Choudhury & K. Shanker. 2002. A survey of marine turtles and their nesting habitats in the Lakshadweep islands, India. A GOI-UNDP sea turtle project report. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India. 62 p.

Tripathy, B., K. Shanker & B.C. Choudhury. 2006. The status of sea turtles and their habitats in the Lakshadweep archipelago, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 103(1): 33–43.

Tripathy, B., B.C. Choudhury & K. Shanker. 2006. Sea turtles of Lakshadweep archipelago, India. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 119–136. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.


Lakshadweep Marine Research and Conservation Centre (LMRCC), Kavaratti

Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore

Centre for Ecological Sciences, Bangalore

Dakshin Foundation, Bangalore