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Olive Ridley turtles find a safe haven

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Careful nurturing: Newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles meander towards the safety of the sea.
Careful nurturing: Newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles meander towards the safety of the sea.

Raghava M.

Murudeshwar-Gangavali coastline is known for the breeding of this critically endangered species

Canara Green Academy, Forest Department are jointly involved in protecting turtles in the area

This year we plan to protect around 6,000

eggs: forest official

Honnavar (UTTARa KANNADA DISTRICT): Early one September morning, eco-activist Annappa Naik received a call from a fisherman saying he had seen eggs of the Olive Ridley turtle on a beach near the temple town of Murudeshwar. Mr. Naik rushed to the spot before any damage was done to them.

He brought the 50-odd eggs to a spot near his house in Manki village adjoining the beach, a kilometre from the spot the eggs were hatched. Creating a pit similar to the one that the turtles make, Mr. Naik placed the eggs in it and covered the area with a net. On November 7, two tiny turtles emerged and started moving towards the sea. Many more are likely to enter the Arabian Sea in the next four days.

These little ones belonging to the long-distance travelling and critically-endangered species of turtles are among the many that Naik has protected over the past four years. Protection here is not only provided near the houses but also at the beach along the 75-km-long Murudeshwar - Gangavali route on the west coast. He is one of the few volunteers of the Canara Green Academy that is involved with the Forest Department in the protection of the turtles in the area.

This coastline has been known for breeding of turtles. The turtles lay eggs along the coast mainly between November and February. “A few of the clusters have been found even between September-October and February-March,” said Ravi K. Pandit, Superintendent in the Forest Department, who is involved in conservation.

In 1984, the Forest Department set up a turtle breeding centre at Jali village in Honnavar taluk, one of the 10 areas identified for the purpose. But over the years these areas have not been productive. There were reports of turtles not choosing the coastline along the Jali village because of obstruction from the sea wall. This led the Canara Green Academy to undertake the conservation of the turtles in 2005.

Campaign

In the first year, the volunteers of the academy located a cluster of 92 eggs near Aprasakonda. From this, as many as 16 hatchlings were released into the sea.

The next year the academy and the Forest Department surveyed the coastline and collected information on the spots where the turtle laid eggs.

They also campaigned to build awareness among the fishermen and the residents along the coastline.

In 2007, protection was given for about 6,000 eggs, while 5,000 eggs were protected in 2008. “This year, we plan to protect around 6,000 eggs. You can see the little turtles in action in December,” said Mr. Pandit.

Locating the cluster of eggs has been a challenge. “Unlike the east coast where the clusters are located close to each other, the distance between two clusters here is around 2 km,” said Deputy Conservator of Forests (Honnavar division) Krishna Udupudi. The department is taking up a host of programmes, including conducting beach walks, for generating awareness about coastal biodiversity, more so of the need to protect Oliver Ridley turtles.

The department also plans to focus on villages such as Haldipur and Taribagli where the eggs are found in large numbers.

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