The Forest Department officials and environmentalists have spotted Olive Ridley turtle nests on Kanyakumari beaches, according to sources.

They also collected about 650 eggs on Friday and handed them over to a turtle egg hatchery near Rajakkamangalam. The officials said after the eggs hatched, the hatchlings would be let into the sea.

The district has a coastline of 65 kilometres, dotted with 52 fishing villages along the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Olive Ridley turtle, classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature , listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and included in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, used to nest on more than 30 beaches in the district uninhabited by humans three decades back.

Their population has drastically dwindled, owing to population explosion, fishing and construction activities, use of banned purse seine nets and trawlers, and unplanned beach tourism.

According to environmental educator S.S. Davidson, the turtle has a key role to play in the food chain as a marine scavenger by consuming the dead and decayed fish, truncated fish parts and seaweeds.

Its meat is a delicacy in coastal areas and its eggs are collected by people. Dogs, reptiles, crows, kites and other birds too prey upon its eggs and hatchlings.

Only two per cent of the hatched turtles attains adulthood after facing a host of threats.

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