WII Scientist urges comprehensive data documentation for Olive Ridley Turtle conservation and research

Andhra Pradesh in 2022-2023 recorded 4,626 Olive Ridley turtle nests on 68 beaches with 67 hatcheries, boasting an impressive 92.84% average emergence success.
Image used for representation
Image used for representationFile- Debatta Mallick

VISAKHAPATNAM : "Olive Ridley Turtles harbour numerous mysteries, of which only a fraction has been comprehended," said Dr R Suresh Kumar, Scientist at the Department of Endangered Species Management, Wildlife Institute of India (WII). He made this observation during a one-day workshop titled 'Sea turtle population estimation, nesting habitat monitoring, and hatchery management practices,' held in Visakhapatnam on Friday.

The workshop is part of the broader Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) scheme initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (MoEF). As part of the National Marine Turtle Action Plan (NMTAP) 2021-2026, the WII is conducting various workshops across the country to educate stakeholders about its purpose.

It prioritises the establishment and maintenance of a robust coastal database. This resource compiles vital records from both coasts, empowering a comprehensive understanding of marine turtle populations and habitats to inform effective conservation strategies and mitigate threats.

As per the ‘Marine Turtle Nesting Population Assessment along the East Coast of India’ data for 2022-2023, Andhra Pradesh reported a total of 4,626 Olive Ridley turtle nests across 68 nesting beaches, facilitated by 67 hatcheries.

Notably, the state achieved an average emergence success rate of 92.84 per cent.

Puducherry recorded 193 turtle nests distributed over 15 nesting beaches, supported by four hatcheries. However, the average emergence success percentage stood at a lower 55.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu documented 2,075 turtle nests spread across 137 nesting beaches, with 30 hatcheries aiding the process. The state maintaied a respectable average emergence success rate of 85.86 per cent.

Odisha boasted the highest number of Olive Ridley turtle nests across 50 nesting beaches, facilitated by 47 hatcheries. The state achieved an average emergence success rate of 68.15 per cent.

Addressing this, Dr Suresh highlighted the increasing trend of nesting observed through recordings as it progresses northward from Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, to Odisha.

He emphasised the significance of the northern regions along the east coast for providing the necessary conditions for turtle nesting, stressing the importance of meticulous documentation and conservation efforts for these beaches to preserve Olive Ridley Turtles. However, he cautioned against neglecting other areas, emphasising the need for comprehensive conservation measures. "One of the key aspects of Olive Ridley Turtle conservation is data collection and storage," he remarked.

"Documentation should extend beyond merely counting live turtles and hatchlings. It should encompass determining the sex of the turtles, measuring their shell size (which helps indicate age), and noting the timing of egg laying.

Additionally, it is crucial to equally document instances of dead strandings. While often overlooked, recording dead strandings is essential for gaining insights into the species' conditions," he explained.

Stating that we cannot recreate what is natural, Suresh suggested conserving marine turtle nests by allowing 10-20 per cent of eggs to hatch naturally, as turtles select optimal sites based on environmental cues crucial for offspring survival.

"Artificial incubation may unintentionally manipulate gender ratios. Protecting natural nesting areas minimises human interference and ensures reproductive success. Recording data from both natural and artificial hatching methods can enhance conservation efforts and mitigate unintended consequences like gender manipulation," he elaborated.

He cautioned against excessive events releasing hatchlings into the sea, as delaying release for public viewing may compromise survival. Releasing immediately optimises survival by swiftly reducing vulnerability to predators.

Vizag CCF Srikanta Natha Reddy, IISER Tirupati Citizen Science coordinator Raja Bandi, forest department officials, and others were present

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