BHUBANESWAR: Defence science is not generally associated with eco-conservation. Then, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was no ordinary scientist. Even when he led DRDO and a team of missile scientists before becoming the President, the visionary man ensured that the rookery of Olive Ridley Turtles, who have chosen Odisha coast as their second home, remains safe for nesting.
Among many things, the marine turtles were Dr Kalam’s bond with the State. Even as the President of India, he did not forget his love for the endangered species. It was noted conservationist Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi who first drew Kalam’s attention to how bright lights at the missile launch complex of Wheeler Island were distracting the marine turtles. The
Missile Man invited Hejmadi for a discussion and ensured that lighting systems are modified and movement of vehicles and DRDO personnel on the beaches off Wheeler Island are reduced so that the Olive Ridley Turtles get unhindered opportunity to lay eggs.
In 2007, while dedicating the Laboratory For Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) at Hyderabad, he recounted his experience on Olive Ridley Turtles. “In my previous assignment, I was leading a missile team and established a launch complex in the Wheeler Islands.
While working on the launch complex, I received a message from Prof Hejmadi saying that the lights in the range created problems in hatching of the Olive Ridley Turtles. I invited her, we discussed and studied the problem with our team,” he said in his speech.
A number of facilitating measures including controlled lighting whenever needed and reduction of movement of people and vehicles on the beach followed. “I started liking the promotion mission of Olive Ridley Turtle. Certain government regulations were also promulgated regarding the type of permissible fishing nets and prohibition of catching Olive Ridley Turtles,” Kalam stated.
The former President also nurtured a dream to “generate an experimental turtle rookery that can be used for attracting endangered species such as Olive Ridley Turtles or their relatives in one of our islands.”
He wanted a joint venture among LaCONES, DRDO, ecologists and biologists for conservation of rare and endangered species to promote an eco-friendly environment using science and technology. He also called for further research on life pattern of Olive Ridley Turtles which he said would be an important research contribution to the world on turtles.