Bhubaneshwar, May 22 (PTI) Over 5,000 Olive Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings have been released into the Bay of Bengal this nesting season, an animal welfare group said on the eve of the World Turtle Day.
Listed as a 'vulnerable' species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, the turtles are recovering from a sharp decline in numbers a decade ago.
Every year the state of Odisha plays host to the largest gathering of Olive Ridleys in the world as the turtles come ashore for a mass nesting event known as 'arribada' - Spanish word for arrival.
For up to six months every year, fishing is suspended by law to prevent turtles becoming entangled and drowned in nets, a conservation necessity that fuels resentment from locals whose livelihoods are badly affected.
However, fishing is not the only threat to these turtles. According to conservationists, the shore of the Bay of Bengal has several ports, shipbuilding yards and a petro-chemical manufacturing hub.
This has led to beach erosion and disturbance, driving some turtles to nest closer to the villages where they are vulnerable to predation.
Their eggs are also at risk of being eaten by people and dogs while the tiny hatchlings trying to make a journey back to the sea can fall prey to dogs and birds.
The turtles need all the help they can get, but ultimately their future depends on the local people embracing and adopting ownership of their conservation.
To achieve that, Humane Society International/India (HSI India) and Odisha-based Action for Protection of Wild Animals (APOWA) work together on sustained direct intervention to train local people in safely relocating vulnerable turtle eggs and releasing hatchlings to the sea.
This gives the turtles a fighting chance while providing alternate livelihoods for the local fishing communities the at the same time.
Since 2014, the programme has artificially incubated and released more than 150,000 olive ridley hatchlings.
"Our aim is to reduce the animosity of the local fishing community towards these turtles, and help them to realise that if they want healthy fish stocks, they should protect turtles as the fisherman's friend," said Sumanth Madhav, wildlife campaign manager for HSI India.
"Since the beginning, our emphasis has been on creating a model where the onus is on the local people to save these beautiful creatures. They need to feel invested in protecting them otherwise the turtles will have no future here," Madhav said.
"We organise community beach clean ups to remove marine debris, and daily beach patrols during nesting season to deter predators and promote in-situ conservation," he said.
Every year in January local volunteers are trained on how to relocate vulnerable turtle nests so that the eggs can hatch safely in the artificial hatcheries.
After about 45 days, the eggs hatch and then the next phase of hands-on conservation comes into play when our volunteers work by moonlight to help the tiny hatchlings make it safely to the sea.
"There is immense effort that has gone into moving the needle when it comes to saving the Olive Ridley turtles. We are now in such a critical phase where we are creating this model to benefit these local communities, so that they carry on the efforts sincerely," Madhav said.
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI