KENDRAPARA: AROUND 10 Olive Ridley turtles that were tagged by forest officials in Gahiramatha over a decade back returned to the same beach this year to lay eggs. Till February 22, about 3,35,099 turtles laid eggs on the Gahiramatha beach, the world’s largest rookery of sea turtles.
“We have already spotted 10 turtles with metallic tags which were fitted on their flippers a decade back. Each tag has a number, Gahiramatha and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) inscribed on them,” said Subrat Patra, the forest range officer of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary on Saturday.
The Forest department, in collaboration with WII, Dehradun had fitted tags on the flippers of 35,000 turtles between 1996 and 1999 in Gahiramatha, Rushikulya and Devi river mouth. Spotting of 10 turtles with tags proves that the female turtles return to the same beach where they had first laid their eggs and were also born decades back, he said.
Sea turtles are also tagged for recognition of individuals or cohorts for research purpose. Tagging is mostly done to obtain information on reproductive biology, movements and growth rate. Sea turtles migrate to thousands of kilometres between their nesting beaches and feeding grounds, said Basudev Tripathy, a noted turtle researcher of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkata.
“Tagging helps us study the turtle’s migratory route and areas of foraging. It also proves the interconnection of turtle groups that navigate from one country’s water to another,” he said. “There is an abysmal lack of information about turtles once they leave Odisha coast. Hence there is a need for tagging and satellite telemetry to track their movement and enhance protection of their habitats,” he said.
For the first time in April, 2001, Odisha Forest department and the WII along with turtle biologist Jack Frazier of the Smithsonian Institute had fitted Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) on four turtles at Devi beach, permitting an online monitoring of migratory routes.
The PTT-fitted turtles circled the waters and only one migrated south towards Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, all four turtles had stopped transmitting within two to four months either due to technical problems or trawler-related mortality, said BC Chaudhury, a noted turtle biologist and former wildlife scientist of WII, Dehradun. In 2007, PTTs or satellite transmitters were fitted on around 30 turtles by the scientists of WII with the help of Forest and Wildlife department at Rushikulya beach in Ganjam district, Devi beach in Puri district and Gahiramatha, he added.