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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Maharashtra: Left undisturbed amid lockdown, Olive Ridley Turtle nesting sites, hatchings doubles

In the past, these nests have faced major threats due to poaching, besides attack on hatchlings by dogs and other animals. However, due to lockdown, very few tourists could visit the beaches, a marine biologist said.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
June 16, 2021 10:03:52 pm
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Express)

The Olive Ridley Turtle nesting sites and hatching along Maharashtra’s coastline have doubled in 2020-21 as compared to the previous two years, with experts attributing it to coronavirus-induced restrictions and minimal tourists flow on the beaches that allowed the turtles to nest undisturbed.

Maharashtra, which has the second-largest coastline in the western part of the country, is scattered with sea turtle nesting habitats. Of the seven sea turtle species found in the world, four are known to nest on the Indian mainland as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep islands. However, the Olive Ridley Turtles, a protected marine specie, only nest sporadically along the coast of Maharashtra in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.

Olive Ridley turtle being released back to sea

In the past, these nests have faced major threats due to poaching, besides attack on hatchlings by dogs and other animals. However, due to lockdown, very few tourists could visit the beaches, a marine biologist said.

According to Maharashtra Forest Departments Mangrove Foundation data, in 2018-19 there were a total of 233 Olive Ridley nesting sites in which 23,131 eggs were laid and 12,601 hatchings took place. In 2019-20, there were 228 nesting sites, where 27,254 eggs and 12,149 hatchings were recorded. This number increased substantially in 2020-21 with the number of nests doubling to 475, which saw 50,799 eggs and 23,706 hatchings.

According to the officials, the Maharashtra Forest Department in collaboration with local NGOs, such as Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra, and local communities has been working since 2002-03 for the conservation of the sea turtles along the state’s coast and it has established a network of hatcheries to conserve the sea turtles.

“The sea turtle conservation programme includes locating Olive Ridley turtle nesting sites, excavation, and relocation of eggs to the hatchery site. The hatchery is protected with a garden fencing net for protecting eggs from predators, flooding, and poaching. Subsequently, the turtle hatchlings coming out of these nests are released safely to the sea by the local beach managers and volunteers,” an official said.

Since 2018, the Mangrove Cell and Mangrove Foundation have carried out awareness programmes in the coastal districts for local beach management staff regarding managing the turtle hatchery sites, locating and relocating turtle nests, etc.

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