The Orissa Forest Department has asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to cover high-power lights at its test-range in Wheelers Islands along the Bay of Bengal so as to not disturb the breeding of endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

The DRDO has its Missile Test Range Centre in the Wheelers group of Island off Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, one of the few remaining nesting sites in the world for the rare species.

The appeal has been made through a letter as there is every possibility that breeding of Olive Ridley sea turtles may get distracted by bright lights during mass nesting, said Prasanna Kumar Behera, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division.

“The mass nesting of turtles is on full swing since a large number of breeding turtles have been sighted along the deep sea in the past fortnight. In view of the situation, it’s time to provide safety to these delicate marine species and ensure their breeding and nesting is not disturbed,” he said.

We have appealed to the DRDO to mask the lights till the newborn turtles complete their seaward journey, Behera said.

Officials of the Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division and the DRDO had earlier held an elaborate discussion on the issue. The DRDO’s response to such appeal has been mixed in the past few years, Behera said. “Last year DRDO cooperated when baby turtles made seaward journey from the nests. However, masking was not carried out when turtles came to the sandy beach to lay eggs,” he said.

Environmentalists have been protesting against the establishment of the defence installation close to the marine sanctuary. “Installation of high—power lights and periodic test—firing of missiles not only disturb the breeding process of turtles but also confuse their hatchlings,” they said.

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