After two failed tries,scientists slow and steady on Olive Ridleys’ trail

After two failed attempts in tracking the mysterious path of Olive Ridley marine turtles,the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India....

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneshwar | Published: February 7, 2009 12:11 am

After two failed attempts in tracking the mysterious path of Olive Ridley marine turtles,the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has embarked on telemetry tracking of the endangered animals off the Orissa coast. But marine wildlife conservationists are wondering whether the experiment will be of any use since the unchecked movement of trawlers off the coast has caused similar experiments to fail .

Although Olive Ridley turtles have been the focus of conservation attention and research for decades,very little is known about their course. The Gahirmatha beach in Orissa is the biggest nesting site of this species in the world,with a huge number of turtles crawling up the beach every year. But scientists are still unsure about where the Olive Ridleys migrate after they have nested in large numbers on the coast of Orissa.

An experiment to track the turtle path through satellite telemetry technique was first conducted in 2001 and later on April 2007 by WII. Though some data was obtained,it was of little use as the female turtles fitted with platform transmitter terminals did not travel long distances. In addition,some of the transmitters reportedly developed technical snags,a few turtles died leading to incomplete data.

The third such experiment started this month with a six-member team of the WII,along with Orissa Wildlife Department officials,planning to fit 40 transmitters on the Olive Ridleys at Gahirmatha,Rushikulya and Devi River. The entire experiment is estimated to cost around Rs 3.5 crore.

“Itis a waste of money. In 2001 and 2007,the experiments never reached their logical conclusion,” said Biswajit Mohanty,a member of National Board for Wildlife and a turtle conservationist. Ashis Fernandes of Greenpeace,which has been campaigning for a ban on trawlers,said the large turtle mortality will be an impediment to the success of the experiment.

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