Rare Bangladesh Olive Ridley turtles 'need protection'

Olive Ridley turtle At this time of the year Olive Ridleys come on to the beach to breed (Photos: Gias Uddin/Prothom Alo)

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Conservationists in Bangladesh have urged the government to take immediate steps to protect endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

Their call comes after at least 25 Olive Ridleys were washed up dead over the last week near the beaches of Cox's Bazaar and on Saint Martin Island.

Many of the turtles had been entangled in fishing lines.

From October to March, thousands of Olive Ridleys come ashore from the deep sea to lay their eggs.

"The Olive Ridley turtles play a crucial role in the marine eco-system. Only the female turtles come to the shores so if they are killed in large numbers then it will have an impact on their population," Prof Mohammad Shah Alam of Chittagong University told the BBC.

While many turtles die after getting entangled in fishing nets, some are killed by fishermen who say the turtles damage their equipment.

"From our conversation with local fishermen we understand that more than a 100 turtles were killed in the last two months," Mohammed Sharifuddin, a government official in the southern Teknaf area, told the BBC.

"We are trying to raise awareness among the locals not to kill these turtles."

Conservationists say that there are five main species of turtle - Green Turtles, Olive Ridleys, Logger Heads, Hawksbills and Leatherbacks - and all are currently found within Bangladesh's maritime boundaries.

According to campaign groups, the Olive Ridleys are endangered because of their relatively high mortality rates - they are particularly susceptible to industrial pollution in coastal areas and sometimes stray dogs attack them or eat their eggs.

Senior wildlife department officials say that plans are now afoot to declare beaches frequented by turtles as marine protected areas. They say that more guards will be deployed on these beaches.

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