RAMANATHAPURAM: A change in the coastal wind has brought this year's olive ridley turtle hatching season to an early end in the Ramanathapuram range. Despite taking several measures to increase egg collection this season, the early end has effected a dent in the figures when compared to last year. As many as 24,005 eggs were collected, and following the hatching process, 23,048 hatchlings (96.01% survival rate) were released into the sea this year from the Ramanathapuram range, which comprises Keelakarai, Mandabam, and Thoothukudi coastal ranges. In the previous year, the forest department had collected 24,391 eggs off the coast and released 23,617 hatchlings into the sea (96.8% survival rate).
The turtle hatching season takes place from December to June annually. Olive ridley turtles play a significant role in sustaining the population of marine species and controlling the number of jellyfish in the sea. Fishermen hugely benefit from how the ridley turtles control the sea population. More than 81 turtles, which got caught in fishing nets, were rescued and released during this season.
Speaking to TNIE, Wildlife Warden and DFO of Ramanathapuram Jagdish Bakan Sudhakar said, "In the three ranges, we had a total of 10 hatcheries. The numbers for this season are lower only because the season concluded earlier due to changes in weather conditions in the sea. However, the survival rate of the eggs from hatcheries was above 96%, except for the Thoothukudi range where it was just 91%. Measures will be taken to improve the stats."
Speaking about various awareness programmes organised, the wildlife warden said they had invited volunteers from schools, colleges, Indian Coast Guard, and Indian Navy to participate in the 'Turtle Walk' along the beach to collect eggs and release hatchlings. One of the volunteers said, "Walking with the turtles and releasing hatchlings was a new experience for us. Through the forest department officials, we came to know about the importance of sea turtles."
During the season, hundreds of turtles can be seen swimming to the shores, a fisherman from Dhanushkodi said. "Considering their safety, we steer our boats away. Also in recent years, the number of turtles arriving at Dhanushkodi shores has dwindled, which may be due to the heavy vehicular traffic near the shores," he added.
Range No. of hatcheries
Mandapam - 4
Keelkarai - 3
Thoothukudi - 3
Range Egg collected Hatchlings released Success rate
Mandapam- 17,731 17,235 97.20%
Keelkarai- 1,645 1,585 96.3%
Thoothukudi - 4,629 4,228 91.33%
Source: Forest department