Tamil Nadu

Mandapam wildlife range sets the highest record in turtle egg collection this year

A file photograph of the Mandapam Forest range office releasing Olive Ridley hatchlings into the sea, earlier this year   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken a toll on humans, but it has helped revive marine life to a great extent, according to the coastal line forest rangers in Ramanathapuram district.

A record number of 19,667 Olive Ridley eggs were collected from the Mandapam range alone this season, as against 5,433 eggs collected in 2020.

Due to heavy rains, high winds, tides and water currents during the nesting season between December 2019 to May 2020, the egg collection was low last year, according to the Mandapam Forest Range Officer G. Venkatesh.

Favourable climatic conditions, reduced fishing activity due to the COVID-19 lockdown, minimum disturbance in the marine ecosystem and increased awareness among fisherfolk on sea turtle conservation led to a spike in laying and collection of eggs during the corresponding period this year, he said.

The eggs were collected from 176 nests along the 25 km stretch between Arichalmunai and Dhanushkodi and hatched at the MR Chathiram and Paradi hatcheries. This year’s nesting season started in January. It takes 48 to 55 days for the eggs to hatch. The last batch of 200 newly-born Olive Ridley turtles were released into the sea last month.

In Thoothukudi and Keelakarai range, 1,960 and 1,054 eggs were collected respectively, adding to a total collection of 22,681 eggs in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park this year. It was last in 2017, when 26,017 eggs were collected in the region but in the following years, the numbers dropped due to shoreline armouring done to prevent sand erosion and protest coastal properties.

In the last four years, the district administration, along with the wildlife range staff, local fishers and voluntary turtle watchers took care not to rob sea turtles of their nesting ground by removing the random rubble-mounted sea walls and making the vast sandy stretch Olive Ridley-friendly. The fishermen were also provided with Turtle Excluder Devices to prevent the animals from getting caught in the fishing nets or killed when they come to the surface to breathe.

"The awareness programmes and various schemes of the government should help us maintain or better the egg collection statistics next year,” said Mr. Venkatesh.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 9:58:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/mandapam-wildlife-range-sets-the-highest-record-in-turtle-egg-collection-this-year/article35680451.ece

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