Giant leatherback Turtle UPSC : Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.
- Giant leatherback turtle (UPSC) is the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
- Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
- Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
- Leatherback – named for its unique shell, which is leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
- Leatherbacks have delicate, scissor-like jaws.
- Their jaws would be damaged by anything other than a diet of soft-bodied animals, so they feed almost exclusively on jellyfish.
- They are primarily found in the open ocean, as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern tip of Africa.
- They are the largest sea turtle species and also one of the most migratory, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
- Globally, leatherback status according to IUCN is listed as Vulnerable
- Known to be active in water below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they are the only reptile known to remain active at such a low temperature.
- Leatherbacks are able to maintain warm body temperatures in cold water by using a unique set of adaptations that allows them to both generate and retain body heat.
- These adaptations include large body size, changes in swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat.
- Many leatherbacks meet an early end due to human activity.
- Eggs are often taken by humans from nests to be consumed for subsistence or as aphrodisiacs. Many leatherbacks fall victim to fishing lines and nets, or are struck by boats.
- Leatherbacks also can die if they ingest floating plastic debris mistaken for jellyfish.
Do you know?
- Five out of the total seven species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. These are:
- Olive Ridley (Vulnerable),
- Green (Endangered),
- Hawksbill (Critically Endangered),
- Loggerhead (Vulnerable) and
- Leatherback (Vulnerable).
- Except the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast.
- In India, sea turtles are protected under the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
- The eastern coastline is the feeding area for Olive Ridley, juvenile Hawksbills and Green turtles.
Role in marine ecosystem
- 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.
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