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.
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.
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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.
Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Bangalore
Dakshin Foundation, Bangalore