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 Post subject: Turtles >> leatherback turtle
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 3:03 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 2:43 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Wattala
Marine flippers reduced to only seven species

As a result of being exposed to numerous hazards and threats, the turtle population of this world has been minimized to just 7 species. And they are deemed to be globally threatened. Amongst the seven species of turtles dueling to exist in the monolithic oceans, five of them come to the coasts of our island to nest in the shores; they are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), logger head turtle (Caretta caretta), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). The leatherback turtle, commonly known as ‘daara kesbewa’ the largest turtle in the world is declared as critically endangered in the IUCN Redlist as it is severely jeopardized.

source: DM/Thursday, July 19, 2007
By Rashmini de Silva


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As a group of reptiles that evolved from the carboniferous period, turtles have been swanning the great oceans for hundreds of million years. Ascribable to their poikilothermous characteristic (having body temperature that varies with the environment), saled integument, and laying cleidoic eggs (eggs with impervious shells) turtles could be deemed as reptiles.

The balance of our eco system is receded drastically due to various unscrupulous human interferences which directly and indirectly antagonizes the habitats, food, and even populations of most fascinating creatures confronting to subsist in our planet. As a result of being exposed to numerous hazards and threats, the turtle population of this world has been minimized to just 7 species. And they are deemed to be globally threatened.

Amongst the seven species of turtles dueling to exist in the monolithic oceans, five of them come to the coasts of our island to nest in the shores; they are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), logger head turtle (Caretta caretta), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). The leatherback turtle, commonly known as ‘daara kasbewa’ the largest turtle in the world is declared as critically endangered in the IUCN Redlist as it is severely jeopardized.

Contrasting from the other marine turtles, the leatherback turtle’s carapace (hard outer covering or case) is slenderly flexible and could grow up to 1.5m-3m. These reptiles feed in the open ocean and mainly consume jellyfish in their diet. During the months of March and May, leatherback turtles arrive to lay eggs in the shoreline of our island in the coastal areas of Kalamatiya, Bundala, Ussangoda, Rekawa and Godawaya.

According to Herpetologist Mendis Wickramasinghe, research reveals that when a hatchling comes out of its nest after a period of 60 days of incubation, the magnetic field of that particular birth place is stored in its brain. After it reaches maturity it will only return to that specific place to nest. If that location does not exist or is destroyed it will not lay eggs in any other place but retreat to the sea and depart tragically. There are umpteen factors and forces that impose the eradication of the leatherback turtle.

One main factor is tourism. Haphazard construction of hotels and restaurants, regardless of the destruction of habitat of many species, is quite common in the costal areas. This directly victimizes the leather back turtle. A turtle’s growth rate is relatively slow, they live for about 100 years and mature when they reach 30. Continuously erecting buildings by the shore, subjugates the natural surroundings and scare away most female turtles who come to nest and intense sound and lights also misguide hatchlings away from the ocean where they get hunted down by so many predators ranging from birds to dogs and of course us humans.

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These factors clearly reflect the grievous status of these magnificent creatures. In Sri Lanka, human populations in the vicinity of coastal areas, from low income groups to thriving business owners depend on the environmental resources around them to obtain any sort of financial gain. This immediately interrupts the existence of a vast number of animals and hinders ongoing conservation projects as well.

The leatherback turtle is also brutally hunted down for meat and sometimes for its pliant carapace. Poaching of eggs also haunts these suppressed turtles, but many are quite hesitant to consume leatherback turtle eggs because at some stage it includes jelly fish toxins. Villagers who dwell in close proximity to the nesting areas of these turtles, irrespective of disturbing these innocent reptiles, snatch money on the sly from tourists by showing them turtles at night when they come to lay eggs, constantly shining flash lights in this procedure commoves the laying of eggs which oppresses the female turtles immensely.

The cause of death of most leather back turtles is ingesting polythene and plastic bags mistakenly to jellyfish. Eating this type of debris impedes their normal digesting routine and leads to fatal injuries.

A fairly large number of turtles suffer from cuts on flippers as a result of being caught into fishing nets and in worst cases some even die of drowning.

When inquired about the current conservation projects in progress for these species and how things have deviated before and after tsunami, Dr. Bambaradeniya, Coordinator of Species Conservation of IUCN Sri Lanka added that, prior to tsunami, leather back turtles were killed as a result of being trapped and drowned due to nets set to hunt sharks for sport in Godawaya.

Responding to duties and obligations, the Department of Wildlife in collaboration with the IUCN has now declared two sanctuaries in Rekawa and Godawaya, where the Godawaya stretch is purely targeted for leatherbacks turtles.

According to Environmental lawyer, Jagath Gunawardhane, under section 30 of the fauna and flora protection ordinance, trading, slaughtering, and collecting eggs of the leatherback turtle is considered as a serious offence. Despite the various rules and regulations implemented, illegal poaching, coastal erosion, unauthorized constructions still rampage in the shoreline of our island. Tourists and locals should be discouraged to purchase ornaments and other products made out of the body parts (skin, shell, eggs) of the leatherback turtle.


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