Team expects this year’s cycle, though delayed, to continue at least till April
With their traditional migration season delayed possibly due to changes in climatic conditions caused by the influence of successive Cyclones Nivar and Burevi that swept through the eastern seaboard late last year, female Olive Ridley turtles have been leaving hundreds of eggs at nesting spots in the region over the past few weeks.
Teams of volunteers led by the Forest Department have been engaged in collecting eggs by fanning across the coastline between Nallavadu and Moorthykuppam. The Puducherry coastline falls on the migratory route to Odisha used by these turtles listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The Olive Ridley is one of only two species of sea turtles that engage in “arribada” nesting (Spanish for mass migration), where large groups of females assemble at a nesting site on the beach.
According to Kannadassin, a staff with the Forest Department, the nesting season which usually begins in November was delayed by a few weeks this year.
A seven-member team of Forest Department officials led by Vanjulavalli Karthik, Deputy Conservator, has been patrolling the coastline in the early hours on a daily basis for weeks — the survey happens usually from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The team has also been sensitising fishermen in coastal settlements such as Nallavadu, Pannithittu, Narambai, Moorthykuppam and Pudukuppam to the importance of protecting the eggs of the turtle species which are endangered due to over exploitation for meat.
“We have so far collected over 4,000 eggs and taken them to properly fenced hatcheries,” the staff said.
The team expects this year’s nesting cycle to continue at least till April. It is estimated that an adult female at a time lays approximately 100 to 200 eggs, which hatch after a 48-day period. The volunteers have been releasing hatchlings back into the sea and the process could extend till June.