Thursday, November 11, 2010

Olive Ridley Turtles - Another Endangered Species

Thanks to our callousness, yet another world-famous species is gradually facing extinction. A massive deep water port is being constructed at the mouth of Dhamra river, north of the world famous Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Orissa. Every year, Olive Ridley turtles come in heaps to the sandy beaches of Rushikulya river mouth off Orissa's Ganjam coast at the mouth of Dhamra rivercoast. There is a spread of about 3 km from Purunabandh to Gokharakuda which is the second biggest rookery in the world. The wellknown Gahirmatha is the biggest rookery in the world to lay eggs. Thousands of turtles wait in the sea for their turn for nesting in the sandy beaches.

This year for some unknown reason the mass nesting has started much earlier. About 2 lakhs Olive Ridleys had nested in the first fortnight of March last year. Some guess that it could be due to the sudden increase in temperature accompanied by wind from the southern direction. Wildlife officials are doing their bit by clearing the beach to help the turtles in their annual ritual.Olive Ridley turtles also lay their eggs in the west coast of India.

The turtles come every year and mate on the calm ocean waters. The females thereafter make it alone to the beach and scoop a big hole in the sand to accomodate 50 to 100 eggs.Once the eggs have been laid,they cover them with sand with their legs and return to the sea.It takes about a month for the eggs to hatch. The little ones then emerge out of the nest. They then start their lonely journey into the sea without their mothers. Nature's miracles are inexplicable.

The construction of the deep water port will add to the woes of the turtles who already suffer from illegal netting.Movement of ships,probable oil spills and other environmental factors pose a severe challenge to their existence. Wonder whether Jairam Ramesh,our Minister for Environment, is aware of the imminent danger to the turtles.

The local villagers at Rushikulya treat the turtles as God's incarnation.Neither do they eat their eggs nor their meat. On the contrary they go all out to protect them. Wildlife officials have set transmitters on some of the turtles to record their movements.

We owe it to our future generations to protect these turtles from extinction. In the scale of conservation status, these turtles are currently ranked in the vulnerable category. Do visit the website and look for Olive Ridley turtles. Do your bit to save these turtles.

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