BHUBANESWAR: As thousands of Olive Ridley turtles throng the Rushikulya beach in Ganjam for mass nesting, tourists trying to get too cozy with the marine species have taken it a little too far.
As pictures of a group of tourists lifting a turtle to click pictures went viral after being posted on micro-blogging site Twitter on Monday, the Forest and Environment Department asked Berhampur Forest Division to identify those who were seen hassling the gentle creature.
Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment Department Suresh Chandra Mohapatra is reported to have directed the forest division to identify the persons so that action can be initiated.
The Olive Ridley turtles are listed as a Schedule I species under Wildlife Protection Act and handling them can invite action. However, the outrageous manner in which the tourists were seen troubling the marine animal drew huge criticism from across the country and prompted the Department to act.
Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) Sandeep Tripathy said: “The Berhampur DFO has been asked to take preventive measures to stop recurrence of such obnoxious happenings.”
This year, Rushikulya beach has attracted record number of Olive Ridley footfalls. Against last year’s nesting number of 3.7 lakh, over 3.8 lakh turtles have already arrived this time and nesting is still underway.The CWW said conservation of turtles is not possible without the local support and Odisha has been lucky to get plenty of it.
“With continuous community efforts, we have more turtles visiting our rookeries. This year the number of turtles at Rushikulya is the highest ever in the history,” he said adding, such one-off incident should not mask the cooperation of local communities in their mission.
Honorary Wildlife Warden of Khurda Subhendu Mallik said strict regulation must be put in place after demarcation of areas. “The area must be kept under CCTV surveillance and uniformed forest officials should be deployed,” he said.
Wildlife conservationist Aditya Panda said Tourism Department publicises Arribada in all its campaign materials, yet Forest Department has a poorly implemented paper ban on visitors to nesting beaches.
The solution, Panda said, lies in a focused policy where sustainable, regulated and community-driven ecotourism is formulated to control this unruly rush of tourists and convert it into positive, livelihood earning and conservation-oriented ecotourism.