TIRUPATI: Andhra Pradesh Forest Department will release at least 10,000 sea turtles (hatchlings) into the sea, next February, from the Bay of Pudikuppam, Srinivasa Puram and White Kuppam in Nellore District, Tirupati Wild Life Circle officials told Express.
This has been made possible by the Pulicat Division Forest staff with the help of a Chennai-based NGO, who have achieved ‘one fourth’ survivals. As part of Community Conservation of Sea Turtles, in ex-Situ method, Pulicat Range and division of Wild Life Circle, Tirupati, a team of forest staff and two volunteers have protected 1,838 eggs.
They conserved them at the same place where the turtles had laid them. From 23 nests, they collected the hatchlings, while few of them moved away from the place they were laid.
It is unbelievable that 10,000 sea turtles will be released into the sea. Just one out of thousand eggs will survive to adult hood under natural conditions. The hatchlings will also have to fight predators and weather conditions.
Explaining the protection plan, a Pulicat Range officer said that day and night watch wards were set up. “Volunteers maintained the temperature and patiently watched over the hatchlings,” the officer said.
An enthusiastic volunteer said that watching a baby turtle struggle out of the nest and make its way to the water was an emotional experience. “Everything from footprints to driftwood and crabs are obstacles. Birds, raccoons, and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face,” the volunteer said.
“After an adult female sea turtle nests, she returns to the sea, leaving her nest and the eggs to hatch. The amount of time, the egg takes to hatch varies among different species and is influenced by environmental conditions such as the temperature of the sand.
The hatchlings do not have sex chromosomes, so their gender is determined by the temperature within the nest,” Poorni Jayaranathan, Zoologist from Chennai, who is the part of the Situ method, said.
She said that if the hatchlings successfully make it down the beach, they begin what is called a ‘swimming frenzy’ which may last for several days and varies in intensity and duration among species.
“The swimming frenzy gets the hatchlings away from dangerous shore waters where predators are high. Once hatchlings enter the water, their ‘lost years’ begin and their whereabouts will be unknown for as long as a decade,” she said.
The volunteer added that once the hatchlings have reached approximately the size of a dinner plate, the juvenile turtles return to coastal areas where they will forage and continue to mature.