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Cyclone Ockhi takes a toll on Olive Ridleys too

Volunteers of Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum with an Olive Ridley turtle, which is returning to the sea after nesting at Pallana beach. The nesting was adversely impacted after their natural habitat at Thottappally coast was destroyed in Cyclone Ockhi. The turtles are now finding Pallana, one kilometre away, as their new nesting place.

Volunteers of Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum with an Olive Ridley turtle, which is returning to the sea after nesting at Pallana beach. The nesting was adversely impacted after their natural habitat at Thottappally coast was destroyed in Cyclone Ockhi. The turtles are now finding Pallana, one kilometre away, as their new nesting place.  

Its nesting sites on Thottappally coast have been destroyed in the recent cyclone

Cyclone Ockhi which battered coastal Kerala has adversely affected the nesting of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles along the Thottappally coast, one of the prime locations for egg-laying turtles in the State.

Secretary of the Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum Saji Jayamohan told The Hindu that 800 metres of the Thottappally coast used by Olive Ridleys to lay eggs had been destroyed following sea erosion.

“The turtles used to generally nest in an area of around 800 metres north of the estuary at Thottappally but its natural habitat had almost completely vanished in the cyclone. Last year, we stumbled upon four nests on the Thottapally coast. However, not a single nest has been found in the area after the cyclone. The long seawall is also preventing the turtle from nesting in the area,” Mr. Jayamohan said.

He said the turtles seemed to be moving to the nearby Pallana beach, south of the estuary. “The real impact of the cyclone on turtle nesting will be known in the coming months,” he said.

Nests found

Mr. Jayamohan said three nests had been found, all at Pallana, this season. The first batch of 70 hatchlings had already been let into sea. Two clutches, with 140 and 142 eggs, were in hatching stage.

He said the lack of a permanent hatchery and rescue centre was hampering conservation efforts. “It is important to relocate eggs from areas with tidal fluctuations and guard it from stray dogs and other dangers,” Mr. Jayamohan said.

“In the initial years it was about preventing people from stealing and eating the eggs. With awareness campaigns and participatory efforts we were able to stop the practice. However, the other threats still lingers on. In a temporary protected hatchery, there is always a chance that the soil above the eggs will become compact. In such a case, hatchlings will get trapped under the sand. Another threat is from the roots of Ipomoea pes-caprae (beach morning glory) plant, the growth of which will destroy the nests,” Mr. Jayamohan said.

Sumi Joseph, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Social Forestry), said a proposal for constructing a permanent hatchery was under consideration. “We have submitted a proposal to the government. But shortage of funds remains a major hindrance in getting the nod,” she said.

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