Older than Dinosaurs, uncared and ignored Olive Ridley turtles are also in the same spree of being extinct

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | June 29, 2024 IST

Olive Ridley

D N Singh

Every year along the Odisha coast more than 10,000 sea turtles (Olive Ridley) die unnatural deaths due to the  illegal fishing activity.

This is a shocking reality. Species that are legally protected under Wildlife Protection Act (1972) as Schedule 1 species, do exist even before dinosaurs, are something we should not allow to perish so soon.

Their survival for us is as important as the species like dinosaurs which, perhaps, suffered extinction due to various reasons including the climatic disorder. Going by a study it was perhaps over several million years ago dinosaurs and few more flora and fauna disappeared forever.

Now-a-days, the sight of dead Olive Ridley turtles grows and slowly has become a common sight along the coasts and river mouths. Be it Rushikulya, Debi river mouth or along the coast in Gahirmatha , such sights are given less and less attention. For the wildlife department it has, down the last many years, the casualties remained confined to statistics and the government, as a whole, has never laid emphasis to arrest or minimize the causes of such unnatural deaths due to rampant illegal fishing activities.

One of the oldest living species on earth, Olive Ridley is  one of the many such species like Leather-back, Loggerheads, Hawksbill and a few others dating back to the period much before the time of Dinosaurs.

As regards the Olive Ridley turtles the coasts of Odisha so far remained as the safe destination for nesting and among them Gahirmatha, Rushikulya and Debi river mouths are prominent sites the Olive Ridleys have the homing instinct for many years.  After mating off-shore, the females arrive at the beach where they dig holes in the sand to lay eggs. When their hatchlings emerge, they drift off with the tidal waves and migrate to their feeding grounds several thousand kilometers away.

Although there is no empirical study to ascertain the numbers, hundred thousand turtles head for the coasts of Odisha for nesting between December and April.

Causes of death and remedies

Illegal fishing by motorized boats and fishing trawlers are few of the principal reasons behind the deaths. Mainly before the month when the turtles keep mating in the deep sea they face the accidents by such vessels and get fatally injured or die.

The prohibitions on fishing in deep sea at such times are never enforced with the seriousness required to be attached and the result is obvious. Ironically many of them get entangled in the fishing nets and often die of asphyxiation and injuries.

Besides the unnatural deaths, the other ominous reason that looms over this innocent species is the demand for their eggs. Each turtle lays eggs numbering about 100 to 150 in the pits and many of them are devoured by the animals straying on the beach and the other is the high protein eggs and the demand of turtle meat in parts of Odisha and West Bengal .

A study showed that over 50,000 turtles are transported from the coasts of Odisha to Kolkata during the nesting season every year.

And all that goes off the vigil of the forest and wildlife department or , as alleged, they chose to look the other way from such activities.

Demand for its meat and eggs had raised eyebrows and then under Appendix 1 of Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife flora and Fauna of which India is a part. Yet somehow, lack in the grass root vigil either by the Wildlife or the Fisheries department remains as a major bottleneck.

Nesting sites often fall victim to some literal effects born out of oceanic storms, erosion of beaches and surge of commercial activities around that creates disturbances through illumination etc. Oil spill from the mechanized vessels is a growing threat for the turtles.

What had transpired into a regulation prohibiting deep sea fishing within 20 kms of Gahirmatha coast and other such coasts where turtles come for nesting.

Disappearing Hatchlings

Another major threat for the Olive Ridley population is the rising mortality of hatchlings of turtles  after they emerge from the egg pits and in some cases when they fail to emerge from the pits because of compaction of sand particles.

Born in crores each year, lakhs of them get either buried and in few cases once out of the pits they fall prey to predators or lose direction of the sea and get killed. Which naturally has become a major set-back for the turtle conservation because the survival rate of hatchlings is frightening!  as one in thousand hatchlings succeed to reach adulthood.

It is time the authorities also emerge out of their hard-shelled complacency to enforce fool-proof conservation and protection. Else if this species goes the dinosaurs' way out of the ecosystem, maybe, a repeat irony of dinosaurs cannot be ruled out

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