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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Maharashtra: In a first, Olive Ridley Turtle nest recorded at Tarkarli beach

Olive Ridley is considered the most abundant sea turtle in the world, with sporadic nesting in Maharashtra, Goa, and the offshore Andaman Islands.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
January 12, 2022 11:53:31 pm
Karnataka, Karnataka marine park, Karnataka marine national park, forest department, marine animals, marine life conservation, marine life, Bengaluru news, Bengaluru, Indian express, Indian express news, Karnataka newsThe conservation work with Olive Ridley turtles was started by a Konkan-based NGO, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) in 2002, as a community conservation effort. (File)

In a pleasant surprise for marine conservationists as well as the state forest department, Tarkarli beach, famous for water adventure sports, has recorded an Olive Ridley Turtle nest for the first time. At another 2-km distance, at Devbag beach, one more nest was found after almost six years.

Olive Ridley is considered the most abundant sea turtle in the world, with sporadic nesting in Maharashtra, Goa, and the offshore Andaman Islands. In
Maharashtra, nesting is recorded across three districts in the southernmost region of the state— Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. The highest number of nests and hatchlings are recorded in three beaches in Ratnagiri — Guhagar, Velas and Anjarle. These beaches also hold an annual Turtle festival in March— a potential hatchling period for the Olive Ridley turtles, when juvenile turtles break the eggshell and crawl to the sea.

The Mangrove Foundation, an autonomous body under the state government, took to Twitter to make the announcement of nests in Tarkarli and Devbag in Sindhudurg district.

The conservation work with Olive Ridley turtles was started by a Konkan-based NGO, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) in 2002, as a community conservation effort. The foundation along with SNM started keeping the nests and hatchling record from 2015 and initiated the turtle conservation programme.

“Both Tarkarli and Devbag (which is an extension of Tarkarli) record high footfall. The nest at Tarkarli is the first occurrence. The nest at Devbag is rare as records show us nesting only in 2014 and 2015. Covid-19 induced lockdown and restrictions could also be playing a part in this. We have asked the forest department staff and livelihood specialists to survey the area and protect the nests that have been found on these beaches,” said Harshal Karve, a marine biologist with the Mangrove Foundation.

Experts attribute the first-time sighting of nests at beaches to reduced tourist interference in the area.

“Over the years, we have held many sessions to increase awareness among locals about the nesting period and how to handle the nests and eggs besides involving community members as volunteer. One of the positive impacts of the efforts is that people now inform us as they spot nests and even turtle tracks. Even the data that we have collected since 2015 is from the locals,” said Karve.

As part of the conservation programme, beach managers are hired from November to May by the forest department to survey the nesting sites, relocate the eggs, if required, to a hatchery and ensure that the hatchlings reach the sea safely.

With the conservation efforts, the hatchling success rate has increased. In 2020-21, the hatchling success rate was 46.66 per cent, a slight increase from 44.4 per cent the previous year. In 2018-19, the hatchling success rate was higher, at 54.47 per cent. Hatchling success is the ratio of the number of eggs laid to the number of turtles surviving the nesting period.

The foundation is hoping that with the launch of the mobile application to collect real-time nesting data, the hatchling success rate will further improve. SNM along with the forest department have developed an application called mTurtle wherein the turtle nest managers appointed by the Forest Department at various nesting zones can directly update data such as the number of eggs laid, sea turtles and hatchlings. The data is stored in cloud space accessible to the Forest Department.

Olive Ridley turtles are globally distributed in the tropical regions of the South Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red list and are also protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

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