KARACHI, Aug 25: The Sindh Wildlife Department collected approximately 60,000 eggs of Green and Olive Ridley turtles from the beaches of Karachi and released more than 15,000 turtle hatchlings in the sea during the nesting season of 2004 and 2005.

The marine turtles are facing threat of extinction and have been protected internationally and owing to their decreasing numbers, the department is taking measures through a conservation project. The project was launched in the early 1980s.

Since then the department has collected over two million turtle eggs and have released over 625,000 hatchlings in the sea from the beaches of Hawkesbay and Sandspit, where marine turtles come to lay eggs.

The department has tagged over 650 turtles which came to lay their eggs this year bringing the total number of tagged turtles to over 23,000 since the beginning of the project in early 1980s. Studies have shown that the turtles return to the same beach to lay their eggs where they were born.

The department has registered that over 600 turtles have repeatedly returned to these beaches to lay their eggs. Some of the turtles have also strayed away and some of these were located in Eritrea, Iran and India.

The turtle eggs and turtle meat are said to have aphrodisiac qualities, and are in great demand in the far-eastern countries. A few weeks back, approximately 40 tonnes of turtle (soft shell turtles and not the marine turtles) meat was seized by the customs.

The survival rate of the turtles— 0.1 per cent— is very low as during their first year of life they face great threats and out of every 1,000 eggs laid only one survives to become an adult.

Under the turtle conservation project the SWD staff, after the mother turtle has laid the eggs and has returned to the sea, collect the eggs from the nest and bring these to the protective enclosures on the beach and dig up the nests of the same depth and bury the eggs. The protective net is also put on the nests.

When the hatchlings come out from the nests these are collected by the wildlife staff, brought to the beach and left on the beach just 10 to 15 feet away so that they drag themselves to the water and on the way recognize the beach and return to lay eggs when they became adults. When the mother turtle has laid the eggs and is returning to the sea the Sindh Wildlife Department staff also tags it.

Responding to Dawn queries SWD’s turtle project chief Dr Fahmida Firdous said though the department had been playing its role in protecting the marine turtles and had succeeded to a great extent, but some more funds and facilities are needed for the project, she added.

She said to create awareness regarding protection of turtles, the year 2006 had been declared as the Year of the Turtle in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia region.

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