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Pakistan Beaches Bustle with Sea Turtles as Breeding Season Gets Underway

INTERNATIONAL: A female turtle lumbers across the beach in Pakistan's bustling port city of Karachi late at night, looking for a place to lay her eggs. Staff from Sindh Wildlife have been waiting for her and watch quietly as the Green Turtle buries a hundred or more eggs in the sand before heading back out into the Arabian Sea.

Due to COVID-19 and movement restrictions, beaches around the world have been quiet since last year. But sea turtles have taken the opportunity to return to their birthplaces in large numbers, reclaiming the once-polluted, now serene beaches to lay their eggs during the main September-November breeding season.

In 2019 around 8,000-8,500 Green Turtles were seen on Karachi beaches but last year those numbers jumped to 15,000. Lockdowns had ended by the start of this year's season, but conservation experts still expect a large number of turtles to visit, Sindh Wildlife says. The weather in Karachi is sometimes conducive up to January for egg-laying.

As soon as the mother turtle leaves, staff hurry to dig out the eggs and move them to a three-feet-deep pit in a hatchery until the baby turtles hatch, 40-45 days later. The hatchlings are taken to the beach immediately and are released into the sea.

The Sindh Wildlife's Marine Turtle Unit, which was set up in 1970 for the preservation of the Green Turtles, has released 860,000 turtle babies into the Arabian Sea so far. Around 900 babies have already hatched and been released this season.

Conservationists say that in the past sea turtle populations were threatened by demand for their fat, meat and eggs but in recent years, loss of habitat due to pollution and land reclamation is also taking its toll on the population.

Green Turtles are one of the largest sea turtles and can grow to weigh more than 90 kilograms. It is the only herbivore among the species and are endangered but found throughout the world. They nest in over 80 countries and live in tropical and subtropical coastal areas of more 140 countries. Sea Turtle Conservancy says there are between 85,000- 90,000 nesting females based on various nesting monitoring reports.

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