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Classication of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches of Southern Sri ...

Classication of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches of Southern Sri Lanka Kamal D. Amarasooriya Abstract The ndings on sea turtle nesting habitats in southern Sri Lanka from two nesting seasons (1997 and 1998) are presented. Almost all nesting beaches are situated in two coastal districts, Galle and Hambantota, in the southern province. A total of 13 selected beaches in the Galle district and eight beaches in the Hambantota district were studied. The total number of nests was 2224 in Galle and 1764 in Hambantota. The nesting rate in the Galle district was 185 nests.month-1 and nesting density was 110 nests. year-1km-1, while in the Hambantota district the nesting rate was 147 nests.month-1 and nesting density was 140 nests. year-1km-1. The highest nesting rates were from Rekawa beach (53 nests.month-1) in Hambantota, followed by Kosgoda (35), Bandarawatta (34) and Duwemodara (28) beaches in the Galle district. The Highest nesting density reported was on Duwemodara beach in the Galle district (660 nests.year-1km-1), followed by Bandarawatta (410), Kosgoda (335) and Rekawa (320) beaches. Beaches were classied in to four major grades depending on nesting rates and densities. Each grade was further divided into ve sub-grades depending on the number of species nesting in the area. Five species nest in southern Sri Lanaka (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, Lepidochelys olivacea, Dermochelys coriacea and Eretmochylus imbricata), but all ve are only found on two beaches in the Galle district and three beaches in the Hambantota district. Rekawe, Bandarawatta, Duwemodara and Kosgoda beaches were identied as the best nesting beaches in southern Sri Lanka and recommendations were made to declare them as protected sea turtle nesting habitats. Introduction Sri Lanka is an island situated between 555'N; 7941'E and 951'N; 8154'E, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, and has a 1,585 km coastline. The island is presently divided into 25 administrative districts of which 14 have maritime boundaries. Galle, Matara and Hambantota are the southern districts of the island and are located adjacent to each other on the southern coast (Anon.1990). Out of a total of seven species of turtles in the world, ve are reported to nest along the coastal belt of Sri Lanka, viz, the Loggerhead Caretta caretta, the Green Chelonia mydas, the Olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, the Leatherback Dennochelys coriacea, and the Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata (Deraniyagala 1952). Although turtle nesting has been recorded from some beaches in the Putta lam, Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara and Matara administrative districts, none of the sites were considered adequate for sea turtles. The most important turtle nesting grounds in Sri Lanka (except the beaches in the Northern and the Eastern provinces) are located in the Galle and the Hambantota districts (Fig. 1; Amarasooriya & Dayaratne 1997). Rekawa in the Hambantota district is another major turtle rookery on the island (Amarasooriya and Dayaratne 1997). The beach, lying between the Bentota river mouth and Balapitiya in the Galle district, is frequently used by all ve species of turtles. One of the country's most important nesting sites, the Kosgoda turtle rookery, is situated within this beach. The collection of turtle eggs is a traditional practice among the coastal communities and almost all the nests are excavated for domestic consumption or to sell in markets and to turtle hatcheries (Richardson 1995). The collection of eggs and improper hatchery practices have been identied as the main threats to the turtle fauna of Sri Lanka (Amarasooriya & Dayaratne 1997).

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The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Chapter 469), which was brought into operation on 1st March 1938, covers the legislative aspects in respect to the protection of sea turtles in Sri Lanka. Section 31(III ) of the Ordinance denes the offences relating to reptiles that are completely protected during both the closed and open seasons, and only included the Leatherback turtles. However, regulations gazetted on 28 July 1972 amended Schedule III to include all other sea turtles (Anon. 1972). The main objectives of the study were to identify criteria that could be applied in grading and classication of the nesting beaches in the country, and to prioritise the nesting beaches in terms of conservation needs.

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Fig. 1: The map of the study area. Materials and Methods The nesting beaches in the Galle and the Hambantota administrative districts, identied through previous studies by the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, NARA (Amarasooriya & Dayaratne 1997) were surveyed from January 1997 to December 1998. A total of 14 beaches of Galle district and eight beaches of Hambatota district were included in the study. Beaches where the annual number of nestings were less than 50 were not considered for this study. Common names used by local inhabitant were used to identify the beaches. Natural structures (rocks,
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trees, streams, etc.) or man-made structures (hotels, towers, harbours, etc.) were used to demarcate each beach. Each of the beaches were measured (to the closest meter) and subdivided into km units using permanent landmarks. Each unit was then divided into ve sub-units. The length of each sub unit was approximately 50 m. Data collectors were appointed after short training on species identication and data sheet completion. The maximum length of a beach covered by one data collector was 2 km. Nesting in each sub unit was calculated by counting the nesting animals, but when the nesting animals were not sighted, tracks were counted instead. The number and species of turtles were recorded daily for each sub unit of each beach. Nesting frequency data at each site for the two years were pooled on a monthly basis to estimate the average monthly nesting frequencies. Based on these information the criteria for the grading of the beaches were formulated. Nesting rate and density were calculated using the following formulae: Average MNF [AMNF] of a particular month = (MNF1997 + MNF1998) / 2 where M7NF = monthly nesting frequencies Nesting rate = [AMNFJan AMNFFeb +.... AMNFdec ] / 12 nests.month-1 + Nesting density = [AMNFJan + AMNFFeb ... AMNE dec,,. ] / LB nests.year-1 km-1 where LB= Length of the beach Results The total length of the beaches in the Galle district was 20km, and those of the Hambantota district totalled 12.5 km. The longest beach was Bentota (2.75 km) and the shortest was Duwemodara (0.5 km), both situated in the Galle district. Except for Duwemodara beach, all others extended >1 km. The highest mean annual nesting rates in the Galle district was at Kosgoda (419 nests.year1), and the highest in the Hambantota district was at Rekawa (637 nests.year-1). The lowest mean annual nesting rates were at Induruwa (37 nests.year-1) in the Galle district and Wellodaya (73 nests.year-1) in the Hambantota district. The estimated total number of nesting attempts in each of the study areas was 2224 in the Galle district and 1764 in the Hambantota district (Table I). The nesting rate in the Galle district was 185 nests.month-1, while that of the Hambantota district was 147 nests.month-1. The highest nesting rate was reported from Rekawa (53 nests.month-1), while the second highest was at Kosgoda (35 nests.month-1). The nesting rate fell below 10 nests.month-1 at eight beaches in the Galle district and at one beach in the Hambatota district (Table II). Table I: Average monthly nesting frequencies at each beach during 1997 and 1998. Monthly nesting records per site Beach name Bentota Warahena Induruwa Kaikawala Habbakkala Mapalana Duwemodara Kosgoda Bandarawatta Length (km) 2.75 2.5 2 1.5 1.5 1 0.5 1.25 1 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun 14 8 4 10 12 18 10 28 24 37 6 4 18 15 15 65 64 50 Galle District 8 2 3 3 2 2 5 3 3 10 10 5 17 11 4 10 4 2 66 32 36 86 34 54 70 33 43 0 2 2 5 3 2 1 9 15 Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 1 2 1 4 2 1 8 12 19 0 3 1 3 4 2 7 10 12 3 4 2 3 6 1 6 9 17 2 5 3 8 11 4 12 20 28 7 7 4 10 13 14 38 45 44 22 5 5 12 14 17 50 48 53

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Thibbattawa Wathuregama Ahungalla Balapitiya Total Rekawa Wellodaya Kahandamodara 1 Kahandamodara 2 Kahandamodara 3 Welipatanwila Walawemodara Bundala Total

1 1.5 1.5 1.75 19.75 2 1.5 1.5 1 1 1.75 1.75 2 12.5

20 41 23 16 16 13 11 10 8 16 17 18 9 17 10 11 5 4 4 3 5 9 11 10 13 16 16 10 4 5 2 4 5 9 14 14 16 25 14 14 13 5 14 12 8 12 14 15 186 373 338 182 190 66 81 71 77 139 238 283 Hambantota District 29 20 31 115 130 33 104 63 49 21 13 29 5 3 5 10 8 5 7 6 6 6 6 6 16 10 45 6 4 15 17 16 16 16 16 16 12 4 29 0 8 19 15 13 12 13 12 13 19 12 38 8 17 17 22 19 19 19 19 19 1 7 7 14 14 17 24 21 14 8 6 6 0 0 0 0 19 64 61 55 19 0 0 0 22 9 14 8 7 2 17 5 6 5 11 20 104 65 169 161 207 172 267 198 141 88 83 109

The nesting density in the Galle district was 110 nests.year-1km-1, while that for the Hambantota district was 140 nests.year-1km-1. The highest nesting density was reported at Duwemodara (660 nests.year-1km-1), followed by Bandarawatta (410, Kosgoda (335 nests.year-1km-1) and Rekawa (320 Nesting density was < 50 nests.year-1km-1 at Induruwa, Warahena, Bentota and Wellodaya. The nesting habitats in the Galle district lie between the Bentota river mouth and the Balapitiya bridge, and are continuous chain of sandy beaches demarcated by natural and man made objects. A signicant variation in nesting rate and nesting density were found along stretch of beach (Fig. 2; Table II). Table II: Nesting rates and densities and species composition at beaches in southern Sri Lanka (GT=Green Turtle, OR=Olive ridley, HB=Hawks bill, LB=Leatherback, LH = Loggerhead). Beach Name Bentota Warahena Induruwa Kaikawala Habbakkala Mapalana Duwemodara Kosgoda Bandarawatta Thibbattawa Wathuregama Ahungalla Balapitiya Total Rekawa Wellodaya Kahandamodara1 Kahandamodara2 Kahandamodara3 Welipatanwila Walawemodara Bundala Nesting Rates Nesting Densities Galle District 8 35 4 20 3 20 8 65 9 74 7 90 28 660 35 335 34 410 17 210 8 65 9 75 14 95 185 110 Hambantota District 53 320 6 50 16 130 13 150 19 230 12 80 18 125 11 65 No. of Species 4-GT,OR,HB,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 4-GT,OR,HB,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 2-GT,OR 4-GT,OR,HB,LB 4-GT,OR,HB,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH 2-GT,OR 3-GT,OR,LB 4-GT,OR,HB,LB 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH 3-GT,OR,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 3-GT,OR,LB 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH 3-GT,OR,LB 5-GT,OR,HB,LB,LH

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The beaches within rst 11.25 km (Bentota, Warahena, Induruwa, Kaikawala, Habakkala and Mapalana) and the last 4.75 km (Wathuregama, Ahungalla and Balapitiya) recorded low nesting rates and densities compared to the beaches located in between that spanned the 3.75 km between these two regions (Duwemodara, Kosgoda, Bandarawatta and Thibbattawa). The average nesting rates for the beaches in the rst 11.25 km, the next 3.75 km and the last 4.75 km were 7 nests.month-1, 29 nests.month-1 and 10 nests.month-1 respectively. The respective nesting densities for these three regions were 51 nests.year-1km-1, 404 nests.year-1km-1 and 78 nests.year1 km-1. The number of species (nesting diversity) in the rst region was four while all ve species were recorded from latter two regions.

Fig. 2: Nesting rates and nesting densities at the beaches in the Galle district. Discussion Three main criteria were identied for the grading the sea turtle nesting beaches: (1) The nesting rate or the average number of nests per month; (2) The nesting density or the average number of annual nests per km, and; (3) The nesting diversity or the number of different species using each beach. Beaches were the categorised into four major groups using the rst two criteria (Table III). Using the third criteria, the number of species, the beaches in each Grade could be further divided in to ve sub grades (Table IV). Table III: Criteria levels used in grading of nesting beaches. Nesting rates >25 15-25 5-15 1-5 Nesting densities >300 100-300 50-100 20-50

01 02 03 04

Table IV: Sub-class jcation of the nesting beaches in southern Sri Lanka (a = beaches where 5 species nested; b = beaches with 4 species, c = beaches with 3 species; d = beaches with 2 species; e = beaches with only 1 species). Grade 01 Sub-Grade a Beach Rekawa District Hambantota

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b c d a b c

Bandarawatta Duwemodara Kosgoda

Galle Galle Galle


d a

b c

d a b c d

Kahandamodara 1 Kahandamodara 2 Kahandamodara 3 Walawemodara Thibbattawa Balapitiya Bundala Wellipatanwila Ahungalla Kaikawala Wathuregam Wellodaya Habbakkala Induruwa Bentota Warahena

Hambantota Hambantota Hambantota Hambantota Galle Galle Hambantota Hambantota Galle Galle Galle Hambantota Galle Galle Galle Galle

This classication system assigns a higher priority for conservation of nesting habitat to beaches scoring the lowest ranking in Table IV. Although all beaches surveyed during this study were used by 2 or more species, no beach could be classied as sub-grade e. However, there are a beaches in the Kalutara, Matara and Hambantota districts where only one species nests (Amarasooriya & Dayaratne 1997), justifying the use of a sub-grade e in the classication system. In previous studies (Amarasooriya & Dayaratne 1997), the nesting beaches in the northwest, west and the southern provinces of Sri Lanka were classied into six categories based on nesting rates and number of species using each beach, and the nesting density was not considered. Under this system, long beaches with low nesting densities were given higher priorities than short beaches with higher nesting densities. To counter this in the present study, nesting density was considered as a main criteria in the grading of the nesting beaches. Based on the above classication system, it is suggested that beaches scoring grades 01 and 02 merit the immediate introduction and implementation of in-situ nest protection programmes. Because some beaches scoring grades 04 and 05 are disturbed by the human activities, such as shing and tourism, it is belived that the establishment of in-situ conservation programmes is not possible, and the development of ex-situ conservation measures for such beaches is recommended. Beaches scoring grades 03 and 04 can be categorised into two groups based on human activities: Group 1, where the introduction and implementation of in-situ conservation measures are not possible (Balapitiya, Ahungalla, Kaikawala, Wathuregama, Habbakkala, Induruwa, Bentota and Warahena); and Group 2, where the introduction and implementation of in-situ conservation measures are possible (Bundala, Welipatanwila, and Wellodaya). Because the nesting rates, densities and species diversity are high on beaches between Mapalana and the Balapitiya bridge in the Galle district, and at Rekawa beach in the Hambantota district, it is suggested that these areas be declared as protected turtle nesting grounds. To minimise the nest excavation activities and other disturbances at all of these beaches, the introduction of community

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based management programmes, coupled with turtle based eco-tourism programmes, is also recommended. Acknowledgements I would like to express my thanks to the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA) for providing funds, transport and library facilities. The assistance of Mr. M.G.K. Gunawardana and Mr. M. Jayathilaka (Research Assistants, NARA) in the eld and data processing throughout the study is gratefully acknowledged. References Amarasooriya, D. & P. Dayaratne, 1997. A survey on the Existing Turtle Hatcheries and Mapping of the Nesting Beaches of Turtles along the North-west, West, South-west, south and South-eastern Coast of Sri Lanka. Internal report; National Science Foundation (NSF): 27-48. Anon., 1990. Coastal Zone Management Plan of Sri Lanka. Coast Conservation Department, Colombo: 101pp. Anon., 1972. Amendment to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, Colombo. Deraniyagala, P.E.P., 1953. A Colored Atlas of some Vertebrate from Ceylon. Vol. 2: National Museum, Ceylon, Colombo: 9-22. Richardson, P., 1994. Marine Turtles of Sri Lanka. ACCD-GTZ Environmental Education and Public Awareness Publications. Coast Conservation Department.

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