Thanks to kind fishermen and the TREE Foundation, turtles like Greenie now have a chance for rehabilitation.

It was ‘D' Day and time to say goodbye to a friend (more like family actually). TREE Foundation, India, was scheduled to release “Greenie” a green turtle found at Marakkanam (near Puducherry) after attaching a satellite tag using a Sirtrack Kiwisat 2 specially designed for juvenile turtles using transmission systems through Argos. This turtle has been lucky to have been entangled in the right net and spared by the fishermen of Vasavan Kuppam, who had to cut the net to free the turtle bearing a great loss.

Mapping

Now turtles like Greenie will map their voyage across seas giving light to a prism of research to help understand the mystery of these amazing creatures. Not only did the chief wildlife warden of Tamil Nadu R. Sundararajau, give permission for the entire process but also released Greenie seven kilometres away from the shore where it was found.

Karuna, an Olive Ridley Turtle, another inmate of TREE Foundation Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre was not so lucky. After being mercilessly cut away on getting entangled in a fishing net she was left with only a right -back flipper and thrown back into the sea, bleeding and struggling for breath (turtles come up to the surface to breathe). Karuna reached the shores of Pannaiyur village unconscious, carried by the sea, finishing her long migratory journey one last time.

She was revived just in time by the TREE Foundation and the stubs of her once beautiful flippers that could span oceans were sutured. For the next three months Karuna fought for her life leaving Dr. Supraja (founder of TREE Foundation) sleepless with frequent visits to the Madras Veterinary College since Karuna's wounds refused to heal. Ms. Jean Beasly, overseas advisor from a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre, provided the light at the end of the grave tunnel of fear that Karuna was not going to make it.

Sparing time

Student volunteers, Devathi and Sindhu and their classmates, took up shifts to monitor and administer medication, travelling from Women's Christian College to Neelangarai every day! It has been nearly six months and now Karuna (meaning ‘compassion' in Sanskrit) now stays confined to a tank feeding on fish brought every day by Azhumalai and Pugazharasu (sea turtle protection force members) who fetch salt water in huge jerry cans, scrubbing algae and applying turmeric to prevent infection every day!

“It is nice to see Karuna so big and fine now,” smiles Sindhu. These people, just like you and me, have 24 hours every day to do what they choose to do. If you ever have the habit of saying “I am bored”, know that it is not too late to take time into your hands and mould it into making life a little better.

Tamil Nadu has been home to the Olive Ridley and green turtles for centuries (they lived along with the dinosaurs, believe me!). They have been worshipped as gods by our ancestors and are sacred to the fishing community of India. But during the past few centuries, respect and understanding for these creatures have been dangerously forgotten. We are diabolically planning our own extinction and 24 hours a day if used well can save the life of this beautiful planet. It is time we learnt how to care for these timeless, tireless travellers.

Two turtles Sumitha and Arnavi were tagged on March 7 and 14. Arnavi has travelled 6238 km till date. To view the journey, visit: http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=477 and to become a volunteer visit : ttp://www.treefoundationindia.org/.

Olive Ridley

Scientific name: Lepidochelys olivacea

Nesting season: Mid December to April (Nesting events are usually nocturnal however diurnal activity has been reported occasionally)

Diet: Omnivorus

IUCN classification: Vulnerable

Mean clutch size: (60-130 eggs)

Incubation period: 45-55 days

Incubation temperature: 30-35 Degrees Celsius produce only females; 25-30 Degrees Celsius will produce only males

Distribution: West coast of Mexico, coast of Venezuela and Brazil, Costa Rica, coast of Nigeria till Angola, coast of Gujarat, Coramandel coast, Sri Lanka and parts of Indonesia are major nesting sites.

Green Turtle

Scientific name: Chelonia Mydas

Nesting season: July to December

Diet: Omnivorus

IUCN classification: Endangered

Mean clutch size: (100-200 eggs)

Incubation period: 45-75 Days

Distribution: Sub Tropical and tropical oceans

(Source: Wikipedia)

Why tagging…

To study the migratory paths of green sea turtles for the first time in Chennai and Kancheepuram.

To study the juvenile green turtles that are found feeding in the near shore regions during the months of December to May.

To reduce unnecessary deaths of adult and juvenile turtles as by catch (non target fisheries).

Inform the feeding grounds and congregation paths to the commercial fishermen and request them to lift up their nets every 40 mins or keep away from fishing in those sensitive areas only during the turtle breeding season.

Nina is a Ist year M.A. Journalism student at Madras Christian College.