Kerala

Mining scares Olive Ridley turtles away

Hatchlings of Olive Ridley turtle being let into sea at Thottappally. The coast, especially areas close to the mineral sand-mining sites, has witnessed fewer turtle landings in recent times.

Hatchlings of Olive Ridley turtle being let into sea at Thottappally. The coast, especially areas close to the mineral sand-mining sites, has witnessed fewer turtle landings in recent times.

Till recently, the season from September to March would find the members of the Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum an excited lot. They will be preparing to survey the Thottappally coastline during nights for Olive Ridley turtles that come onto the beach to lay eggs.

But now, as the season approaches, they are a bit worried. Despite being one of the prime locations for Olive Ridleys in the State, the Thottappally coast, especially areas close to the mineral sand-mining sites, has been witnessing fewer turtle landings in recent times. 

According to the forum members, the egg-laying turtles used to nest along a stretch of around 800 metres north and south of the Thottappally pozhi (sandbar at sea mouth). But, of late, there are signs of them skipping the area between the harbour and the pozhi

In the 2021-22 season, the members stumbled up on 13 clutches with a total of 1,100 eggs, all of them on the Pallana beach near Thottappally. “It is not unusual for Olive Ridleys to nest south of the pozhi on the Pallana beach. But what is more startling is that not a single nest was found on the northern side between the harbour and the pozhi last season. Prior to it, on an average, we used to record four nests on this part of the coast every season. There are clear indications of them moving their nesting area to the south. Of the 13 nests found south of the pozhi, 12 were recorded from a 150-metre stretch,” says Saji Jayamohan, forum secretary. 

Olive Ridley turtles are legally protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. According to Jafer Palot, scientist at the Zoological Survey of India, mining poses a major threat to the nesting of Olive Ridley turtles.

“Olive Ridleys are known to have a special bonding with the place of their birth. Mining results in temperature variations and causes the entire ecology to change. It will definitely impact the breeding of the turtles. ,” Mr. Palot observes. 

While reasons ranging from human interference to stray dog menace have been cited for Olive Ridleys partially abandoning the Thotappally coast, local residents, involved in conservation, say there are hardly any favourable conditions for the turtles to nest at Thottappally, as the place is witnessing a hive of activity due to the mineral sand-mining. 

“When I joined the conservation efforts in 2013, it was about raising awareness among people against stealing and eating the eggs. In 2017, cyclone Ockhi damaged the natural habitat of the turtles. When things were returning to normal, the government opened a new mining site at the pozhi. The mining activities at the harbour and the pozhi are spelling doom for the ecology of the area and have evolved as the biggest threat to the nesting of turtles,” says Mr. Jayamohan. 

The forum members say the mining activities have resulted in severe coastal erosion and caused the coastline to shrink. “If things go on like this, it won’t be long before the turtles totally abandon the coast. The shore from Thottappally to Pallana, considered a natural nesting habitat of Olive Ridleys, is fast disappearing. In many places, the width has been reduced from 45 metres to 30 metres,” says Sajith, a local resident and member of the conservation group.


Our code of editorial values

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.

Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 9:38:16 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/mining-scares-oliver-ridley-turtles-away/article65754794.ece