A dead male Olive Ridley turtle washed ashore at Thiruvanmiyur beach on Sunday.

The turtle bore injuries and strangulation marks, pointing to the possibility that it was trapped either in a trawl or gill net and was knocked around a bit on the ocean bed when the net dragged him.

Supraja Dharini, chairperson, Tree Foundation, said that in October sea turtles begin to come ashore. “The males always come first to wait for the females. By the end of October, the turtles start congregating; in November and December, they mate and the nesting happens from the end of December to March. This male was probably on his way to Odisha where lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles nest. It would have probably taken him another month to reach Odisha,” she said.

The turtle, identified as a male by its long tail, measured 76 cm in length and 73 cm in width and 96 cm from head to tail. It was later buried.

According to Ms. Dharini, this is the first case of a dead turtle washing ashore this season in Chennai. The Foundation has been working with turtles and fisherfolk for 11 years now and the last season saw the highest number of dead turtles being buried.

In January and February this year, the Foundation’s Sea turtle Protection Force had buried 225 dead turtles and the Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network had buried another 200.

“The number of dead turtles was very high because a new hook and line net for tuna fish and ray fish were introduced. We work in Nellore and Krishna districts too, in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. In Nellore, during the same time, we found 98 dead turtles. During the previous season, the number was just 30. In Krishna district we found 230 dead turtles instead of the usual figure, which hovers around 90. In Chennai the number of dead turtles has always been around 100,” she said.

Ms. Dharini stressed the need for the use of turtle excluder devices in nets, which is used world-wide to prevent deaths of turtles.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, a dead eel was also found on the same beach. “It must have been caught in a fishing net and got injured and died,” explained a Tree Foundation volunteer.

If residents come across turtles or marine mammals that are injured or dead they can call 9444052242.  

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