CHENNAI: It’s that time of the year again when everybody’s focus is on the familiar nesting grounds of the Olive Ridleys. However, what is not known is that there a few isolated beaches near Pulicat estuary, where a large number of dead and injured turtles are washing ashore this season. Since there are no conservation efforts in the area most of the deaths go unaccounted.
When Express visited the spot on Sunday, around 25 fully-grown turtles were found dead within a distance of 1.5 km and the condition of carcasses suggest that all must have washed ashore within the past week. There are a few others which are badly decomposed and skeletal, with crabs feasting on them.
At least 12 turtles bear fresh injury marks and were lying in a pool of blood. A few of them could have been easily rescued and rehabilitated, if help had reached on time. The injuries suggest that these turtles were most probably hit by trawler boats. Deep cuts under their hind flippers left them immobile and some must have been caught and stranded in gill nets.
The problem with these isolated beaches is that they are inaccessible by road. One has to hire a boat from Pulicat fish market to reach the estuary and the journey takes about 45 minutes. There are no villages inhabiting the islands and this actually ensured the area remained untouched. However, off late, tourists are visiting the place, especially on weekends.
Though, Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulations prohibit trawlers to fish within 5.5 km of the shore and fishermen are mandated to fix TED (turtle excluder device) to their nets, there is poor implementation, resulting in an increasing number of turtle deaths.When contacted, Chennai Wildlife Warden CH Padma told Express that the Forest department has received complaints of poaching of turtle eggs and other disturbances in Pulicat. “Only a week ago, we set up a hatchery in Pulicat and our patrol teams have started collecting eggs and depositing them in the hatchery. I will ask the teams to extend conservation efforts near the estuary as well,” she said.
Padma said in Chennai, about 100 turtles have washed ashore between December and February and the department has recovered 17,000 eggs. Student’s Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), a voluntary group working in tandem with the department, has collected and shifted 10,000 eggs to its hatchery in Besant Nagar.
Only recently, Chennai Collector V Anbuselvan conducted a meeting attended by Padma, officials from Coast Guard, marine police, fisheries, pollution control board, school and collegiate education, NGOs, etc, for effective turtle conservation.
In Kancheepuram, where Tree Foundation is overseeing turtle conservation, 164 nests were protected. “We have recorded and buried nearly 112 Olive Ridley turtles. Based on the injuries sustained, it has been confirmed by the Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF) members that the injuries has been due to fishing interaction,” said Supraja Dharini of Tree Foundation