CHENNAI: The annual nesting season of Olive Ridley turtles is underway and the forest department officials along with volunteers secured over 100 eggs from the solitary nest on Besant Nagar beach. Chennai Wildlife Warden E Prasanth told TNIE, this year the number of turtles coming to city’s coast for laying eggs is expected to be higher, as is the case after every good monsoon.
“We are readying makeshift hatcheries in Besant Nagar and Neelankarai. The Besant Nagar hatchery will be ready by Thursday and in Neelankarai it will be operational within the next four days. Night patrolling on city beaches and awareness programmes will be increased,” Prasanth said.
Usually, the nesting season begins in January and goes on till April, but the month of February, however, is considered the peak as hundreds of nests are found from Pulicat to Kovalam. While some nests are given protection in-situ, eggs from other nests especially on Chennai’s coast where there is threat from stray dogs and poachers, are carefully retrieved and shifted to hatcheries.
Volunteers from Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) and Tree Foundation are assisting the forest department in conservation efforts. The forest department is also vary of threats to approaching turtles from trawl nets. The fishermen are being sensitised regularly along with other line departments like fisheries and coastal police.
Supraja Dharini, marine conservationist and founder of Tree Foundation, said an awareness programme was organised in Kasimedu recently. Close to 10 turtles that were entangled in the trawl nets were successfully released by the fishermen. The community-based marine ecosystem conservation programme started in 2002 and Tree Foundation has so far trained more than 363 Sea Turtle Protection Force members from 222 fishing communities of Chennai, Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and southern Odisha.