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August 20, 2006
The Decmber 2004 tsunami has seriously disrupted breeding patterns of the endangered
leatherback turtle in the Andaman and Nicobar islands where 400-600 used to nest during the winter, according to a UNDP report.
The report also said the turtle population had become virtually extinct in Malaysia and had deprived the country of one of its most "charismatic tourist lures". The tsunami had caused localised damage to turtle habitats in 11 countries, the 166-page United
Nations Environment Programme report observes.
India, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the worst affected, with some nesting beaches completely destroyed. Marine turtle conservation projects in these countries also suffered significant because of the
loss of lives of conservation staff.
"It's far too soon to say whether this is a long-term downward trend or simply a natural fluctuation in the population size," the report says. The main threats to the pre-historic creatures of the sea, which can grow up to 700 kg or more, include mortality
in fisheries, human egg harvest, depredation of eggs by pigs and dogs and loss of critical habitat -- especially beaches needed for nesting.
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