The efforts by forest officials of Kanniyakumari district helped in increase of collection of Olive Ridley turtle eggs and also release of hatchings in the water
The forest officials and staff of the Kanniyakumari district deserve appreciation for their efforts to conserve turtles. The data in the Olive Ridley Turtle Conservation Project-2023 report, a copy of which is available with India Narrative, shows a significant jump of 78 per cent in the number of hatchlings released back into the sea this year.
Talking to India Narrative, M. Ilayaraja, Kanniyakumari District Forest Officer said: “This year’s conservation efforts have provided several positive results. Of a total of 10,032 eggs which were collected during the nesting season and were carefully protected and monitored during the incubation phase, 6,723 hatchlings emerged. This is a success rate of 67.02 per cent.”
There were variations among the different nesting sites. For example, while Bhoothapandi had a hatchling success rate of 62.97 per cent, Velimalai recorded a whopping success rate of 71.95.
In terms of collection of eggs also there was an increase in the current year of 67 per cent as an additional 4,039 eggs had been collected as compared to last year. While 5,837 eggs came from Bhoothapandi, 4195 were from Velimalai. Furthermore, 2,945 more hatchlings were released back into the sea.
Olive Ridley sea turtles, weighing between 30 to 50 kilograms with adults going beyond 100 kgs, are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These reptiles have an important role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. Spelling out their importance, the DFO said, “they contribute to nutrient cycling, promote sea grass growth through grazing activities, and help control jellyfish populations.”
As their decline can have a cascading effect on the overall balance and functioning of marine ecosystems, apart from conservation work, KFD also made an attempt to understand the various factors that affect the nesting process like temperature, availability of nesting beaches etc.
This research work yielded several interesting findings. One such showed the impact of sea erosion on nesting locations. Of the 38 nest locations in Velimalai range, only nine were not breached by the water. Commenting on this Ilayaraja told India Narrative: “This is ample evidence that without intervention of the forest department these nests would be lost to the sea and thus makes the effort of the forest department an essential service for the protection of the species.”
The studies done during the research provided valuable insights on the current state of affairs in relation to the nesting process of these turtles in Kanniyakumari.
As per the report, “the data collected and analysed by the researcher provided a clearer picture of how beach erosion and the incursion of high tides impact the nesting grounds.” The studies will be vital to develop appropriate conservation strategies to mitigate the effects of beach erosion on the turtles while aiding in identifying potential areas that require protection or restoration efforts to create more suitable nesting habitats for them.
Summing up the report said: “By understanding the dynamics of the changing beaches and their impact on nesting success, conservation efforts can be directed towards ensuring the long-term survival of the olive ridley sea turtles in Kanniyakumari.”