|Northern River Terrapin(Batagur baska)||Sunder bans||Critically Endangered|
|Red-Crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kanchuga)||National Chambal Sanctuary, spread across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh||Critically Endangered|
|South Asian Narrow Headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra Indica)||Gangetic river system||Critically Endangered|
|Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)||Temple ponds in Assam and Bengal||Extinct in wild|
|Asian Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)||In the eastern part of the Country||Vulnerable|
|Four-toed River Terrapin or River Terrapin (Batagur baska)||India, Bangladesh and Nepal|
|Olive ridley’s||Odhisha Gahirmatha||Vulnerable|
|Hawksbill Turtle||Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the coast of Tamil Nadu and Orissa.||Critically Endangered|
|Leatherback Turtle||Tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and into Indian Oceans.||Vulnerable|
Marine turtles along the Indian coast
India has a coastline of more than 8000 km which is rich in biodiversity. At a distance from sustaining fishing grounds, India’s coastal waters and beaches endow with foraging and nesting sites for a variety of marine species, including sea turtles. Five species of sea turtles are known to reside in Indian coastal waters and islands. These are the Olive Ridley, Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and the Leatherback turtles. Apart from the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast.
In India, despite the fact that sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II, they face grave terrorization .Some of the major fear includes:
- Spontaneous beach enlargement.
- By-catch mortality (in trawl nets and gill nets): By-catch is the name given to ocean animals that are involuntarily caught by fishing gear.
- Feeble enforcement of fisheries and Protected Area policy.
- To a limited extent, homicide of turtles is for meat and the poaching of eggs.
Breeding season of turtles is usually between the months of November and December. In Tamil Nadu, the Olive Ridley nests between December and April along the Chennai-Kancheepuram coastline. The feeding area for Olive Ridley, juvenile Hawksbills and Green turtles are primarily the eastern coastline. Off-shore waters are also nomadic routes for the Olive Ridley while moving towards beaches in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The coastal state of Odisha on the eastern coast of India experiences one of the world’s largest mass nestings or arribada of the Olive Ridley turtle during the months of October to April.
Three of the world’s main mass nesting beaches for this species are located in Odisha, supporting a nesting population of probably more than half a million Olive Ridleys, making this one of the most critical conservation areas for this species globally.
Role of Turtles in marine ecosystem
Sea turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including puffer fish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, sea grasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in transportation of nutrients from the highly productive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea.
- Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
- The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
- The Hawksbill feeds on sponges in the reef ecosystem and opens up crevices for other marine life to live in.
- Turtles are also transporters of nutrients and energy to coastal areas.
- Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposes and create much needed fertilizer in sandy beaches.
As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans.
Integrated conservation measures are needed to rebuild their populations to healthy levels so that they can carry out the full extent of their key roles in ocean ecosystems.