Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
However, local fishermen in Kerala had informed T.H. Cameron, an English officer stationed in Quilon, that a large number of leatherbacks were caught at the turn of the century but the numbers had already declined (Cameron, 1923). According to them, about 40 turtles were caught annually either while coming ashore or with nets at sea. They were often seen in the vicinity of Tangacheri Reef. Cameron attempted to obtain a leatherback specimen and finally located one, but it was sold while being transported from his office, probably for consumption.
Most of the fishing net capture and stranding records are from the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Maharashtra. While the records may not reflect actual distribution, the higher frequency of occurrence in southern India may not be surprising given that the nearest extant rookery is in southern Sri Lanka (Ekanayake et al., 2002). While most records have been of captured or stranded turtles, Jones (1959) recorded a nesting event at Calicut, Kerala, in July 1956.
Southern Kerala is one of the few places in the world where leatherback meat is consumed. As recently as 2002, a leatherback turtle caught in a gill net at Vizhinjam was butchered and the meat transported to a nearby market for sale at Rs. 20 per kg (Krishna Pillai, 2003a, b). On another occasion, a captured leatherback was released due to the efforts of a foreign tourist who was present at the harbour (Krishna Pillai et al., 2003a).
Additional leatherbacks have been released through the efforts of the community or forest officials (Krishna Pillai et al., 2003b; Balachandran et al., 2009). The most recent records of leatherback strandings are from the Gulf of Mannar (Balachandran et al., 2009) and Vizhinjam (Anil et al., 2009), both in 2008. In both cases, the turtles were rescued from fishermen with the help of forest officials and released.
Krishna Pillai has compiled lists of leatherback records on the Indian mainland (Krishna Pillai and Thiagarajan, 2000; Krishna Pillai et al., 2003a). Table 1 contains an updated record of all leatherback sightings and strandings on the mainland coast over the last century.
Anil, M.K., H.J. Kingsly, B. Raju, K.K. Suresh & R.M. George. 2009. A note on the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli 1761) rescued at Vizhinjam, Kerala. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 200: 23.
Anonymous. 1982. Leatherback turtle washed ashore on Madras coast. Hamadryad 7: 3. (Credited to Ms. Reliable Ferret).
Balachandran, S., P. Sathiyaselvam & P. Dhakshinamoorthy. 2009. Rescue of a leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) at Manakudi beach, Kanniyakumari District, Tamil Nadu and the need for an awareness campaign. Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter 10: 19-20.
Cameron, T.H. 1923. Notes on turtles. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 29: 299-300.
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Ekanayake, E.M.L., T. Kapurusinghe, M.M. Saman & M.G.C. Premakumara. 2002. Estimation of the number of leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) nesting at the Godavaya turtle rookery in southern Sri Lanka during the nesting season in the year 2001. Kachhapa 6: 13-14.
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Henderson, J.R. 1913. Guide to the Marine Aquarium. Madras: Government Press.
Jones, S. 1959. A leathery turtle Dermochelys coriacea (Linnaeus) coming shore for laying eggs during the day. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 56: 137 – 139.
Karbhari, J.P. 1985. Leatherback turtle caught off Devbag. near Malvan. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 64: 23.
Karbhari, J.P., A. Prosper, C.J. Josekutty & J.R. Dias. 1986. Some observations on marine turtles landed along the Maharashtra coast. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 70: 20.
Krishna Pillai, S. 2003a. Instance of meat of leatherback
turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) used as food. Fishing Chimes 23: 46-47.
Krishna Pillai, S. 2003b. Leatherback turtle used as food in south Kerala. Kachhapa 9: 23.
Krishna Pillai, S., M. Badrudeen & Bose. 1995. On a leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea landed at Rameswaram. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 140: 10-11.
Krishna Pillai, S. & C. Kasinathan. 1989. On two species of marine turtles caught off Dhanuskodi Gulf of Mannar. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 102: 17- 18.
Krishna Pillai, S., K.K. Suresh & P. Kannan. 2003a. Leatherback turtle released into the sea at Vizhinjam in Kerala, India. Kachhapa 9: 5-6
Krishna Pillai, S. & R. Thiagarajan. 2000. An updated report of incidental catches of leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in India. Abstract No.108. 4th International & 16th National Symposium. Organised by Dept. of Aquatic Biology, Trivandrum.
Krishna Pillai, S., C. Unnikrishnan, K.K. Velayudhan & Ajith Kumar. 2003b. Community participation in the release of a leatherback turtle in south Kerala. Kachhapa 9: 23.
Rajagopalan, M. 1983. Leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea washed ashore at Kovalam, Madras. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 50: 35-36.
Rao, P.V., A.A. Jayaprakash & M. Ramamoorthy. 1989. On a leatherback turtle caught from Palk Bay, Mandapam. Marine Fisheries Information Service, T&E Series 95: 9.
Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury. 2006. Marine Turtles of the Indian Subcontinent. Hyderabad: Universities Press.
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