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The Green Turtle is the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles.
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Green Sea Turtle
Chelonia mydas japonica

FACT FILE:
Local Name: Sabaaz Kchuwa (Urdu)
Family: CHELONIIDAE
Genus: Chelonia
Status: Rare and declining
Notes: Green Turtles are rare and declining. Fish netting should be avoided when doing deep sea fishing. 
If you find a new hatchling, please take it to the sea and release it or contact WWF-Pakistan/Sindh Wildlife Department 

 

Photo Credit: WWF-Pakistan 

 

 

Description and Biology:

General characteristics
The Green Turtle is the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles (the Leatherback Dermochelys can grow much larger) although size, weight, and carapace shape can vary markedly between different populations. Average nesting female carapace length 80 to 110cm and weighs 110 to 185kg.

 

Biology:  

The Green Turtle eats exclusively seagrass and seaweed (algae). The Green Turtle forages in shallow, inshore waters. Aggregations of Green Turtles often occur over shallow-water seagrass pastures or other suitable feeding grounds. Migrating Green Turtles may travel 20 to 40km per day. It is suggested that migratory behaviour is particularly linked with herbivory, since the richest feeding grounds (notably sea grasses) are most often found in shallow areas of coastal deposition, and do not typically coincide with the best nesting grounds (often isolated predator-free island beaches). Females do not attain maturity in the wild for 15 to 50 years. After a period of two to five decades, females typically migrate to a nesting beach often used by aggregations of turtles. Females remigrate at intervals of three years, and may lay three clutches of 100 to 120 eggs. Hatchlings emerge mostly at night from eggs buried in beach sand and make their way to the sea.

 

Habitat, Distribution and Status:
The beaches of Pakistan are some of the most important nesting grounds for the Green Turtles. Each year thousands of female Green Turtles come to the beaches of Hawksbay and Sandspit off the coast of Karachi to lay their eggs. The Sind Wildlife Department in collaboration with WWF-Pakistan is working on a project for safe release of turtle hatchling to the Arabian sea since 1980's. Green Turtle nests are laid throughout the year, with most nests occurring between July and December. The egg are carefully kept in closed enclosers and released after the hatchlings are hatched. 

 

Between 1980 and 1997 a total of 17,008 green turtle nests were recorded. Numbers of nests since 1987 are apparently lower than the earlier years of this initiative (Figure 1). To date, 3087 Green Turtles have been tagged at this site and in addition to many local recaptures individual females have been recaptured in India (Bhaidar Island, Gulf of Kutchch Gujarat, 2227'N 6917'E), Africa (Beraisole, Eritrea, NE Africa 1339'N 4208'E) and more recently in Iran (Between Lengeh and Dayyer in the Persian Gulf, 2745'N 5215'E).

 

Pakistan has long been known to support a large population of Green Turtles Chelona mydas (with a lesser number of Olive Ridleys Lepidochelys olivacea), nesting primarily at Hawkes Bay and Sandspit near Karachi, Sind Province. There have been indications that the remaining coast of Pakistan, in Baluchistan Province (the Makran coast), may also hold significant numbers of sea turtles. At least 95% of the Baluchistan coast (>700 km long) consists of inaccessable and unfrequented sandy beaches-apparently suitable turtle habitat. Three sources have provided data on turtles in Baluchistan. Butler (1877) reported nesting by large turtles, apparently C. mydas, on Astola (Haft Talar), a small island some 25 km from the mainland. Butler stated "there is no water on the island, which is barren, and only frequented by boats from Muscat, which catch fish and large numbers of turtle". Although few turtles were encountered on the nest beach on the evening of 28 May 1877, the shore was reportedly "strewn with the dry carcasses of turtles which had been killed by Arab fishermen for the sake of their oil...the stench along the beach in consequence was intolerable". Shockley (1949) recorded that C. mydas was seen frequently along the coast near Jiwani (Jiunri), adjacent to the border with Iran. As many as a dozen large turtles could often be seen close inshore at one particular "turtle cliff", and numerous turtle tracks could be seen on the beach (in September-November 1945). Later, in an unpublished letter (cited by Frazier, 1980), S. Telford reported information from reliable sources that "many thousands" of turtles were harvested from a beach at Ormara during 1975. 

 

Unfortunately, the Wildlife Department is shorts of funds and faces many problems. It is mainly due to these reasons that only 5,000 turtles have been tagged during the past 20 years of the project, and scores of nests go unnoticed every year.

As a result, stray dogs eat many eggs, some get disturbed due to the movement of humans and fail to mature, whereas hundreds of hatchlings die every year after being crushed under the wheels of moving vehicles, since it is their natural instinct to move towards light, and in natural conditions, the sea is the brightest object at night. Other than those mentioned above, many threats exist in the region including: beach development, fishing activities, noise from neighbouring villages, pollution from a nearby harbour and exploitation of turtle products.

 

 

Figure 1

 

 

 

Credits:

  • Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan, Herpetological Lab Rabwah, Pakistan

  • Asrar, F. F. 1999. Decline of Marine Turtle Nesting Populations in Pakistan. Marine Turtle Newsletter 83:13-14 (http://www.seaturtle.org/mtn/archives/mtn83/mtn83p13.shtml)

  • Marine Turtles in Baluchistan (Pakistan) Marine Turtle Newsletter 42:1-3, 1988 (http://www.seaturtle.org/mtn/archives/mtn42/mtn42p1.shtml)

  • WWF-Pakistan

  • Nausherwan Ahmed


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