IN-SITU SEA TURTLE NEST PROTECTION PROGRAM IN PANAMA - OKANDA COASTAL STRETCH IN THE EAST COAST OF SRI LANKA: A SUCCESSFUL CONSERVATION ACTIVITY WITH COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION

G. ELLEPOLA, S. HARISCHANDRA, M.G.G. DHANUSHKA

Abstract


Although, sea turtles are protected under government legislation since 1972 (Fauna and flora Protection Ordinance of Sri Lanka 1972 and amendment 1993), they are still being exploited in Sri Lanka for their eggs and meat. Turtle rookeries are being disturbed by the tourist industry development and many turtles are accidentally caught and drowned in fishing gear each year. A recent survey in the east coast at the end of 30 years long civil war revealed that the stretch of beach from Panama to Okanda is a significant turtle nesting site where five species of turtles namely, Olive ridley turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle, logger head turtle and hawksbill turtle, come to nest. However, after the war several development programs have been introduced to this area and human settlements are also coming up in the area. Wild boars (Sus scrofa) inhabiting the nearby natural forests are the major threat to turtle eggs in the area.  Survey records showed that 90.4% of the nests have been dug out by wild boars during 2009 and 2010. Among the five species nesting, 68% are Olive ridley turtles. After the conservation program was initiated mortality rates have declined significantly. Nesting density is higher in the region and hatching success is 78%. Beach erosion causes loss of nests substantially. This study shows that Panama-Okanda beach provides a significant nesting site for sea turtles and highlights the need to declare it as a sanctuary.


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References


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