Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Friday, June 21, 2024

Chennai beaches set for Olive Ridley nesting season

 CHENNAI: Olive Ridley turtles are finding it tougher to nest on the city's beaches with each passing year, having to elude fishing nets, find their way through piles of garbage and past illegal constructions along the shore. To make matters worse, Corporation of Chennai came up with projects as part of its 'beach beautification' plan that would have played havoc not only with the annual nesting of the endangered species but also threatened other marine creatures and the delicate coastal ecosystem. 

Happily, environmentalists and residents convinced the corporation about the folly of its plan, the projects were scrapped and the city's beaches are ready again to welcome the turtles. 

Conservationists and volunteers will start setting up hatcheries for turtle eggs next week but the search for turtle nests will begin immediately. "We will undertake walks along two stretches, from Neelankarai to Elliot's Beach, and from the Cooum estuary to the Adyar estuary along Marina Beach," said V Arun, coordinator of Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), an informal group of volunteers who work to conserve Olive Ridley turtles that nest on Chennai's beaches. 

The nesting starts from January and goes on till March. 

"We find few nests in the first week of January. It usually picks up in the second week," Arun said, adding that the number of turtles coming to shore to nest dwindles by the last week of March. "Although volunteers scout for nests at the time, the focus by then is more on releasing the hatchlings," he said. 

Last year, SSTCN along with the forest department released over 22,000 hatchlings into the sea. 

Members of the public can join conservationists in searching for nests from Pongal onwards. The walk will begin from Neelankarai and culminate in Besant Nagar. 

Unlike previous years, the forest department is likely to monitor one stretch this year, while conservationists will keep vigil in the other. SSTCN last year trained forest department officials on the ways to find turtle nests, relocate them to safer locations and creating a conducive environment for the eggs to hatch. 

The nests are traced by following the following tracks of turtles on the beach. Volunteers then gently 'poke' the sand with a probe. The spot where the probe sinks into the sand easily is where a nest is most likely located. Each female turtle usually lays up to 120 eggs in a single clutch that takes around 45 to 60 days to hatch. The light-sensitive hatchlings set out to sea immediately, following the reflection of the moonlight on the surface of the water.