After three months of constant care by sea turtle conservationists, young adult Olive Ridley sea turtle Yuvathi was released back into the sea on Sunday morning. Yuvathi had been found washed ashore by turtle conservationists with her front left flipper chopped off by a fisherman’s knife. She had been treated for her wound and had been kept under observation during her recovery. The release is also a standing example of the increasing instances of different conservation groups working together to help the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles.
Yuvathi had been found washed ashore on the beach in Besant Nagar by Shravan, a volunteer with the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). He alerted members of Tree Foundation, which is involved in conservation activities along the coast to Chennai’s south, since SSTCN does not have a turtle rehabilitation facility. The injured turtle was administered first aid by Tree Foundation volunteers and was taken to the Madras Veterinary College for an x-ray, after informing officials of the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department.
At least 12 years of age, the injured turtle was slightly smaller than most other specimens her age. It was for this reason that she was named Yuvathi (young woman in Tamil).
Yuvathi was kept at Tree Foundation’s rehabilitation centre at Neelankarai and was nursed back to health. She was taken out to sea in a boat on Sunday morning and released near an undersea rock formation, which serves as a feeding ground for turtles.
Tamil Nadu’s Environment Secretary Mohan Verghese Chunkath witnessed the release, and gave a commitment to the volunteers that he would look into the possibility of working out an arrangement with the Fisheries Department to ensure that fishermen do not account for sea turtle injuries or fatalities. This is a commitment that conservation groups have long been urging the government to make.
Yuvathi is a case in point. “Her injury was clearly a knife wound. The flipper had been chopped right off by a fisherman, probably when he found her trapped in his net. We have been urging the government for many years to help create greater awareness among the fishing community on the endangerment to the species and their role in the ecosystem,” says Supraja Dharini, chairperson of Tree Foundation.
“It is not that all fishermen are insensitive to the turtles. That is ironic, because we have a number of volunteers from the fishing community working on turtle conservation,” she added.
Yuvathi’s release is also a standing example for the fact that trawl fishers have not attached the mandatory Turtle Excluder Device on their nets and also for the use of banned varieties of nets. While the banned nets lead to an indiscriminate exploitation of marine life, the Turtle Excluder Devices can make a significant difference to the safety of the sea turtles. By addressing these two aspects alone, the government would be able to conserve the Olive Ridley turtles, which are accorded the same level of protection under Indian law as the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Peacock, which are the National Animal and Bird respectively.