Ex-situ hatcheries set up to protect turtle eggs from predators, says official

Over 600 Oliver Ridley hatchlings struggled to grapple with their first taste of sea in a bid to get going with their life, helping them on their way from the ex-situ hatchery were a number of human hands.

Among the enthusiastic hands that picked up the hatchlings from baskets and placed on the seashore here on Sunday early morning were those belonging to Principal Conservator of Forests Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden A.V. Joseph and Additional Director General of Police CID T. Krishna Prasad.

Olive Ridley turtles nest all along the eastern coast of India and a significant number come to the beaches in the State, Mr. Joseph said. While they come in lakhs to places such as Garhimata and Rushikuliya rookery in Odisha they come in hundreds and thousands to the beaches in the State. After laying eggs these marine turtles return to the sea. The turtle eggs need protection from predators like dogs, wild boars and other animals, including humans, for this purpose the Forest Department has established ex-situ hatcheries all along the coast. Volunteers from local communities help in transplanting the eggs from the nest formed by the turtle to the hatcheries, he said. The Coast Guard and the Marine Police too have been helping the Forest Department in the protection of these sea turtles that come for nesting, Mr Joseph said.

While the Forest Department is willing to spend for the protection, what is more important is that the community participate in large numbers in the protection of the wildlife, he said. These turtles take 20-30 years to mature and return every year to the place they were born. We have been sensitising the fishermen and trawler operators to add a turtle excluding device (TED) in the nets, the Coast Guard too has been helping us enforce this. The TEDs would ensure that these animals trying to reach the beach are not trapped.