Turtles return to nest on Colombo’s shores in rare eventView(s):
By Kasun Warakapitiya
Olive Ridley turtles have been coming ashore at a stretch of naturally formed beach near Galle Face to lay eggs.
The Open University’s senior zoology lecturer, Dr Saminda Fernando, said the sighting of the species, Lepidochelys olivacea, had dropped during the construction of the port city when sand was dredged.
But now a natural sandy area has formed near the area where the Beira Lake opens up to the sea.
Dr. Fernando said it was surprising that egg-laying Olive Ridley turtles had returned as they do not usually come to areas that are illuminated. In contrast, beaches at Kosgoda and Hikkaduwa are free from illumination.
“There were records of turtle sightings in the same area during 1986-1987, yet the egg-laying halted as the beach area disappeared when the Port City was being built,” Dr. Fernando said.
Experts believe females will lay 120 to 150 eggs. Olive Ridley turtle eggs hatch in 45 to 62 days depending on factors such as heat, humidity and the rains while the sex of the baby turtles is determined by temperature. So the nesting area needs to be protected.
Wildlife Conservation Department Officers believe this is the first time turtles have come ashore to nest on a beach area in Colombo.
Colombo District Wildlife ranger Saman Liyanagama said the first sighting of turtles laying eggs was in January 2023. Sixteen individuals were recorded. “A beach is forming near the Galle Face beach, which has become a nesting place for turtles.’’
He said wildlife officers, the Coast Guard and navy are guarding the area. About 1,887 eggs had been laid up to March 2. The first clutch of eggs laid near Galle Face hatched within 53 days.
Mr. Liyanagama said the area should be declared a sanctuary.
He said the police had arrested three suspects in the Colombo district who had disturbed the turtles. The DWC is collecting data to create the turtle migratory map and is willing to share the data for research.
Several sea turtle eggs were found at Galle Face beach on January 18, 2020, when the navy carried out a beach cleaning.
Chairman of the Turtle Conservation project, Thusahan Kapurusinghe said that this year he has observed an increase in Olive Ridley turtles nesting in Sri Lanka.
He said more research was needed on the population density, distribution, migratory habits and breeding behaviour of turtles island-wide.
Although more Olive Ridley turtles reside within Sri Lankan waters, they usually lay eggs on beaches in Orissa and Goa in India.
“If the nesting areas are disturbed, the turtles use the closest beaches to deposit their eggs, therefore we need to find out the reasons for more Olive Ridley turtles nests in Sri Lanka.”
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