“Giant Leatherback Turtle” nesting sites threatened by Andamans development project

What is the News?
In the Andaman and Nicobar(A&N) Islands tourism and port development projects are under the proposal. However, it is threatening some of the most important nesting populations of the “Giant Leatherback turtle”.

Giant Leatherback turtle

  • Giant Leatherback turtles are named for their shell. Their shells are leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
  • They are the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
  • Found in: They are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • India’s Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

Characteristics:

  • Nesting: In the Indian Ocean, their nesting sites are only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • Further, the surveys conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are of the view that it could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
  • Uniqueness: Leatherbacks have been viewed as unique among extant reptiles. They are able to maintain high body temperatures using metabolically generated heat.
  • Swimming Pattern: A project was set up at West Bay in A&N islands to monitor the leatherback turtle. It has been found that the numbers of females turtle nesting here are significant. After that, they swim towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

Concerns:

  • Nesting Beaches under Threat: At least three key nesting beaches are under threat due to mega-development plans. Two of these are on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island.
    • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman. It also proposed a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
  • Tourism in Little Andaman: For the implementation of this plan, NITI Aayog has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest. And about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve. These two sites are key nesting sites.

National Marine Turtle Action Plan:

  • Released by: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The plan notes that India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1.
  • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar find a specific mention as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India”.
  • The plan also identifies coastal development, including the construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.

Source: The Hindu

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