Kerala

Punarjani offers a safe nesting site for Olive Ridleys

An Olive Ridley hatchling making its way to the sea.  

The endangered Olive Ridley turtles now have a safe nesting site at Paravur, all thanks to Punarjani, a joint initiative of the Social Forestry wing of the Kerala Forest Department and Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS). Though the marine reptile listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is very uncommon in the coastline of Kollam, Chillakkal and Pozhikkara beaches make an exception. Since these spots lack seawalls, the turtles come ashore to lay eggs and the project aims at providing them a secure breeding habitat.

“Fishers were educated about the necessity to preserve the turtles and were also urged to inform the authorities if they spot any. We could locate a couple of nesting sites with their help and we have already released the first batch of 61 hatchlings to the sea,” says Anil Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer, Social Forestry, Kollam.

Guard posted

Abdul Salam, a local fisher, was employed by the department to guard the nests while the officials also ensured regular patrolling.

“Each turtle lays 60 to 100 eggs and it takes 45 to 60 days to hatch the eggs depending on the temperature and climatic conditions. Usually, it is necessary to shift the eggs from vulnerable areas where poaching is rampant. Timing and maintaining the original positioning of the egg stalks are very important when it comes to translocating. If we want to move the eggs to a hatchery, we have to do it within 10 to 12 hours,” says Kalesh Sadasivan of the TNHS.

Hatchery

Though the department has established a hatchery at Chillakkal, none of the nests were translocated this time. Since hatchlings emerging from the nests crawl into the sea, constant monitoring was required to protect them from predators and birds of prey. “Though the first batch of hatchlings came out early morning, we had to keep them till evening. In the night they can safely make their way to the sea, but it is not possible during daytime due to the presence of predators,” says Dr. Kalesh.

Lack of awareness

Punarjani was launched in 2020, immediately after some fishers reported the sighting of Olive Ridleys on the beach. While the Chillakkal beach is considered a safe zone, the picture seems different in Pozhikkara. “There is lack of awareness among local communities and we are planning another campaign following all COVID-19 guidelines to spread awareness,” adds Mr. Anil Kumar.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:23:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/punarjani-offers-a-safe-nesting-site-for-olive-ridleys/article34311566.ece

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