Project title: Long-term monitoring of leatherback turtles in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Location: Little Andaman, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, opportunistic surveys of all known nesting beaches in the island groups

Species in focus: Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Institution: Dakshin Foundation and Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Principal Investigators: Kartik Shanker and Adhith Swaminathan

Field staff:
Saw Thesorow
Saw Momong
Sushil Lakra

Project partner organisations: Andaman Nicobar Environment Team (ANET), the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Department

Duration: 2008- Present


To monitor leatherback turtles in Little Andaman Island and conduct periodic surveys of the Nicobar group of Islands.

Abstract: In 2008, Dakshin Foundation and Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, initiated a research and monitoring programme in Little Andaman Island on leatherback turtles of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, in collaboration with ANET and the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Department. The programme includes long-term monitoring of nesting trends, a tagging programme, genetic studies and satellite telemetry to identify the inter-nesting and post-nesting movements of leatherback turtles. Rapid surveys of other important nesting sites in the Nicobar group of Islands are also conducted on a regular basis. The programme aims at undertaking a collaborative, multi-stakeholder response to coastal and marine conservation issues in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and to sensitise the communities to local conservation issues through awareness and outreach programmes using leatherback turtles as a flagship species.

Key findings:

The leatherback nest-monitoring programme at South and West Bay reveals a steady increase in leatherback nesting. Since the initiation of the project over 150 individuals have been tagged with PIT tags and flipper tags. Telemetry studies conducted between 2010 to 2014 on ten individuals indicate that leatherback turtles from Little Andaman traverse much of the Indian Ocean during their foraging migrations, ranging as far east as Western Australia, and as far west as Mozambique and Madagascar.

Our recent surveys in 2016 and 2019 of the Nicobar group of Islands reveal that all the important nesting beaches have formed again after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and are still favorable for leatherback nesting. The beaches of Great and Little Nicobar Island continue to have the highest leatherback nesting in the region.

While this population was once considered to be declining, we observed a stable trend in the nest numbers, with some annual variation. With over 1000 nests per season, this is the most significant nesting population in the northeast Indian Ocean.

Post nesting migratory route of leatherback turtles nesting in Little Andaman Islands:

Contact details:

Kartik Shanker:

Adhith Swaminathan: