DRDO to turn off lights for Olive Ridley sea turtles

Artificial lighting in the island near Gahiramatha disorients hatching turtles.
DRDO to turn off lights for Olive Ridley sea turtles

KENDRAPARA: The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to turn off the bright lights at the integrated missile testing centre in Abdul Kalam Island for safe arrival of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles at Gahiramatha.

“As many turtles have already arrived on the sea water of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary, we have decided to switch off the lights, restrict our missile testing and other major activities in order to protect them. DRDO has been helping forest officials conserve the turtles as the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within Gahiramatha are situated near the Abdul Kalam Island,” said Chitta Ranjan Ojha, a senior scientist of DRDO at Chandipur, on Wednesday.

Forest Range Officer of Gahiramatha Subrat Patra said artificial lighting in the island near Gahiramatha disorients hatching turtles and adult female. “The officials of DRDO assured us to put off the lights during the nesting season. As large number of turtles are mating on the surface of the seawater, the State Government also banned fishing in the sanctuary from November 1 to May 31,” he added.
Five years back, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had helped Dhamara port instal turtle-friendly light systems in Nasi-1 and Nasi 2 islands. These lights have no mercury vapour and only sodium vapour lamps have been installed. All lights have been directed towards downward, for which sky is not glowing in the lights, he informed.

Renowned environmentalist late Bankabihari Das in 1997 had for the first time drawn the attention of the then DRDO chief Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, pointing out the floodlights, which disorient the hatchlings at Wheeler Island (now known as Abdul Kalam Island) and urged Kalam not to test any missile during the turtle season from November to May.

Kalam responded immediately assuring that the defence authorities would take all necessary action to ensure that the turtles were safe, said Hemanta Rout, an environmentalist and president of Marine Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Society (MTMCS).

Last year, a record number of 6,0,4046 Olive Ridley sea turtles nested from February 22 to March 3 in Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands by breaking the nesting record of last 16 years due to conservation efforts, he added.

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