CHENNAI: The sound of birds chirping fills the air, the crunch of leaves under your feet, and the smell of grass as one weaves through banyan trees sets the tone of the Naturalists Conclave. The Theosophical Society was no better place to discuss environmental issues affecting Chennai, with the gentle sway of nature all around.
The black-and-white marbled floor of the Blavatsky Bungalow welcomes participants to the conclave organised by the Adyar Nature and Environmentalists Centre. The two-day event focused on several topical issues affecting the Chennai coast, wildlife, flora and ecology by noted conservationists and environmentalists, in five sessions.
With the Olive Ridley season drawing to a close, V Arun from the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) chronicled the developments in conservation methodology with 31 years of data. “Over an area of 13.5 km to 14 km, we noticed an increase in nests, but this also leads to an increase in dead turtles. During the harshest summer, there is only a 22 per cent of survival for hatchlings. One summer shower can make all the difference,” he said.
This year, SSTCN recorded around 180 nests and 115 turtle deaths. The main cause of turtle death is due to the use of trawl boats and gill nets by local fishermen. Once tangled in nets, the turtles die, but only 10 per cent of bodies wash onto shore, and Arun cannot explain what happens to the rest. Other causes of death are fungal disease and infestation.
“The fishermen are some of the most disempowered communities out there. Some of them have joined our cause, and we have found that working with their children really does make a difference,” said Arun. All-terrain vehicles, floodlights on beaches, and encroachment by temples and resorts have affected the safety of shores, with only 0.0004 per cent of shores being protected areas.
The theme of the future generation’s role in saving the dying ecosystem was highlighted in the documentary by The Race To Save The Amur by Shekar Dattatri. In 2016, there was a mass killing of the Amur Falcon in Nagaland, specifically in the Doyang Reservoir, for meat. The documentary showed the efforts of local conservationists and journalists to educate the youth on the importance of protecting the species. There were scenes of children singing songs about the falcon, and Shekare explained that children’s voices left a great impact on adults.
“There are two overall takeaways from the conclave. First, children must be taught to get back to nature, and look after her. Second, our Mother Nature has cancer. This is a very important time in the course of human history,” said Dr M Srinivasan, liason between the Theosophical Society and the Adyar Nature and Environmentalists Centre.
The main cause of Olive Ridley deaths, according to V Arun, Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network, is due to use of trawl boats and gill nets by local fishermen.