Welcoming Olive Ridleys
By Shyam Balasubramanian - CHENNAI
17th November 2012 08:14 AM
Conservationists working for the protection of Olive Ridley sea turtles have expressed hope that the coming nesting season will be better than last year’s. Cyclone Thane, apart from wreaking devastation along the northern Tamil Nadu coast, is said to have thrown the entire turtle nesting season off track last year. Even as limited understanding of these turtles and their ocean hinders proper prediction of nesting patterns, activists say they are keeping their fingers crossed in the hope of a healthy round of nesting.
The Olive Ridley turtles are expected to start trickling in from from mid-December to lay their eggs on beaches in and around Chennai. The nesting season usually peaks around late January.
With the critical period around the corner, volunteers have started receiving the call up from these organisations, which are gathering the resources and materials needed to set up hatcheries and prepare for rescue efforts.
The big worry on the minds of the activists this year is over how many nests they would find this year. Activists found not even half the usual number of nests in the 2011-12 nesting period.
This had raised alarm in the community. Understanding remains sparse about the life patterns of sea turtles, which humans usually see only when they come to the shore to lay their eggs. This has made it difficult to understand why there was a sharp decline in nesting last year.
“We still don’t have much clarity. Some say it was because of Cyclone Thane. Other have raised concerns if the drop is an indication of falling population of Olive Ridleys in the ocean. One of our volunteers, who has been involved in turtle conservation for over 20 years, says it could be a cycle because of an overall trend in the age of the turtle. Either way, our fingers are crossed for a healthy season this year,” says Akila, coordinator of the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN).
But such concerns however, have not dampened the resolve of activists in their preparations for the coming season.
“We are organising a training programme for our volunteers. We are also taking out various campaigns and sensitisation programmes to prepare for the season. We expect to put up our hatcheries by the second week of December,” says Supraja Dharini, chairperson of the Tree Foundation, which carries out conservation activities on the stretch between Neelangarai to Marakkanam. Tree Foundation has also scheduled an orientation programme for its volunteer Sea Turtle Protection Force, which Environment Secretary CV Sankar is set to attend, on November 24.
“Officials have been helpful in the past years. It will further help if they can actually see our efforts,” says Supraja.
The activists are also engaging with various government departments to make the coast more conducive to the nesting turtles.
“There is growing self awareness among the local communities. It is heartening. We are optimistic about the coming season,” says Akila.
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