Monitoring green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and seagrass meadows in the Lakshadweep Islands.

Nupur Kale, Muralidharan M., Kartik Shanker

The green sea turtle population of the Lakshadweep Islands has been observed to have increased in numbers in the last decade. Although this is largely considered a success in terms of sea turtle conservation in the region, the sudden rise in turtle population has had its impacts on the seagrass communities in the region. This has led to the overgrazing of seagrass species such as Thalassia and Cymodocea found in the lagoons of Lakshadweep. In addition, the increase in turtle numbers has been attributed with the decline in seagrass dependent fish species by local fishers. This has led to conflict with small-scale fishers who depend on reef fisheries for sustenance. This has led to a direct and indirect conflict between fishermen and turtles.

Despite being the driver of this conflict, the green turtle in this region remains poorly studied. The objective of this study is to understand aspects of green turtle ecology in the Lakshadweep islands such as population distribution, demography and size, and diet. These will be determined by using mark-capture-recapture, morphometric measurements and histological analysis of faecal samples. Moreover, habitat usage maps and experimental exclosure set-ups will be tested for any reduction in conflict and growth in seagrass, respectively.

Collectively, this information will be used to improve the management of green sea turtles, conserve the seagrass communities and safeguard the livelihoods of the local fisher community.

Funding:

The Ravi Sankaran-Inlaks Small Grant Program

The Rufford Foundation

Report:

Dakshin Foundation_Green Turtle Project Report2018

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