In an alarming trend, the Kerala coastline which was once a favourite nesting ground for marine turtles has been recording a dip in the number of arrivals for the past few years.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, after a recent survey, has issued an alert that the number of turtles coming to the Kerala coast has substantially decreased over the years.
Four species of marine turtles - olive ridley, green turtle, dermochelys coriacea and hawksbill - come to Kerala for nesting annually.
The WWF survey could trace only olive ridleys along the Kerala coast.
The survey was conducted in association with local conservation groups and NGOs to trace the status of marine turtles along the entire Indian coastline covering eight states.
In Kerala, the survey was conducted in a period of four months by traversing across the entire coastline of 570km.
“Of the seven species of marine turtles, five have been reported in India and four of these are in Kerala. But the number of these turtles are fast decreasing and urgent conservation measures are required,” said Renjan Mathew Varghes, director, WWF Kerala.
In the northern parts of Kerala, eggs of these turtles are taken away for human consumption while in the southern parts of the state turtles are killed for meat, he said.
Turtles that get entangled in nets are killed by fishermen for ‘destroying’ their nets.
Sand mining, construction of seawalls, increased disturbance through human presence on the beaches even at night and street lighting are some direct and indirect threats to turtles, the study said.Concerned by the survey results, the WWF plans to implement a comprehensive conservation initiative across the country to address issues.
A pilot project has started in Orissa for fitting turtle excluder devices in trawl nets whereby trapped turtles can be rescued. The programme will be extended to other states.
In Kerala, NGOs and local conservation groups have already taken up the issue.
The WWF plans to form a conservation group by adding local conservation groups, students and youth along the coastal areas to ensure protection of marine and coastal ecosystem and its dependent life forms.
The conservation group will be equipped with cameras and headlights to patrol along the coast.
“There’s a plan to include government departments in this programme. Discussions are being held in this regard,” Renjan said.
WWF has also conducted awareness programmes along the coastal stretch, including general public, fishermen community, tourists, hotel and resort operators, NGOs and environmental groups.