Tamil Nadu

Sea turtle without hind-flippers struggles to nest

In vain: The Olive Ridley turtle returning to the sea at the Dhanushkodi beach on Saturday.

In vain: The Olive Ridley turtle returning to the sea at the Dhanushkodi beach on Saturday.  

Injury may have been caused by aquatic predators or by fishermen, experts say

A victim of an accident or maybe a predator’s attack, an adult Olive Ridley sea turtle missing its hind-flippers, returned to sea after making multiple failed attempts to dig a nest for its eggs at the Dhanushkodi beach on Saturday.

The 15-year-old turtle, which visited the seashore in the early hours, laboriously struggled for about two hours before giving up as wildlife officials, anti-poaching personnel, and turtle watchers stood helpless. “After visiting the shore at 4.30 a.m., the turtle attempted to dig in at least 10 places before making a retreat,” said S. Sathish, Forest Range Officer, Mandapam range.

Turtles use their hind flippers to dig conical shaped nests up to a depth of 55 cm to lay about 150 eggs, he said.

The flipper-less turtle would not revisit the shore for nesting, Mr. Sathish added and said it would obviously lay eggs in the sea and they would go waste. Watchers allowed it to return as a similar rescue two years ago at Pirappanvalasai led to the reptile’s death within a few days, he added.

‘A horrible act’

The turtle might have lost its flippers to aquatic predators. But the likelihood of the injury being a result of human action is high. It may have happened either through contact with boat propellers or after getting caught in fishing nets, he said.

“If the fishermen had cut the flippers to prevent damage to their nets, they should be remorseful. The act has affected the reproduction of sea turtles that feed on jellyfish which, in turn, increases their catch,” Mr. Sathish said. After a delayed season, apparently due to Cyclone Gaja, the Mandapam wildlife and forest range had recorded a maiden collection of eggs for this season (2018-19) on January 14, collecting 105 eggs. On Saturday, they collected 247 eggs from two nests and the haul so far has been 1,679 eggs, Mr. Sathish added.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:12:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sea-turtle-without-hind-flippers-struggles-to-nest/article26164577.ece

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