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Updated: April 11, 2010 02:45 IST

Safe passage for turtle hatchlings ensured

Deepa H Ramakrishnan
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Sea turtle hatchlings are sensitive to light.
Sea turtle hatchlings are sensitive to light.

Chennai Corporation switches off high mast lamps on Elliot's Beach after 11 p.m

To facilitate the movement of Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings towards the sea, the Chennai Corporation for the past few days has been switching off high mast lamps on Elliot's Beach after 11 p.m. The measure would continue till April-end. Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said this was being done following requests from wildlife activists as the turtles were highly sensitive to light. Usually, the six high mast lamps at the beach are kept on till day break.

“This is only a short-term solution. As a long-term solution we will be changing the orientation of the lamps,” he said.

R.Sundararaju, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, welcoming the move said hatchlings take their first cue from the light of the stars and moon. Under normal circumstances the land would be totally dark and therefore they would move towards the sea.

“After such powerful lights were installed it became difficult for the hatchlings to head for the sea. In the process, some of them fall prey to stray dogs and at times even get crushed by vehicles,” he said.

Supraja Dharini, founder Trustee-Chairperson of TREE Foundation, said the Corporation's decision was a milestone for activists who had been campaigning for the turtles. “We had asked the Chief Wildlife Warden to direct the panchayats and police not to permit any film shooting or parties on the beach in their areas, which is also being implemented.”

B.Arun, coordinator of Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which has been demanding that the lights on the beaches be turned off, said to save the hatchlings, every year they walk from Neelankarai to Adayar Estuary collecting and relocating turtle nests, and releasing the hatchlings. “This year we covered the Marina beach too. Though we collect as many nests as we can, we end up missing a few nests. The year before last we found 1,500 wild hatchlings and this year so far about 500.”

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