Rights of Nature Alert: Great Nicobar Island Leatherback Turtles

One of the most important nesting sites of the Giant Leatherback turtle in the Indian Ocean is being gravely threatened by tourism and port development proposals in Great Nicobar Island in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) group of islands.

The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic. Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according to it the highest legal protection.

Surveys conducted in the A&N Islands over the past three decades have shown that the populations here could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally. Research in recent years has also shown that these turtles swim as far as Madagascar and Australia after having nested on the beaches of this island group – long intercontinental journeys of more than 10,000 kms.

There is concern now, however, that the Galathea Bay nesting site on Great Nicobar Island, which records the highest nesting activity, is under serious threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months. Of particular concern is the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay.

The scale of the project and the investment proposed could signal the end of a crucial Giant Leatherback nesting site.

This case clearly shows the need to replace the concept of ‘development’ with one of well-being in harmonious co-existence within Nature. Such developments are destructive of the relationships between humans and other beings and are a danger to the ecological integrity of the island system.

As the International Rights of Nature Tribunal we are putting out an alert for this imminent violation of the Rights of Nature – it is of the utmost importance to assert the rights of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as self-regulating ecological entities.

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