In the year 2011-12, nearly 720 hatchlings* of the Olive Ridley sea turtle were released through sea turtle conservation initiatives mobilized by FSL India. For close to 8 years, our volunteers, local community members and conservation organizations in the area have been working together on the coastline of Udupi District, in the State of Karnataka, which forms the sporadic nesting grounds of these turtles. It is one of FSL’s oldest home based, self-funded projects.
While there has been much progress, there is still more to be done: the sad reality remains that only 8 nests* were recorded during 2011-12, along the 60 km stretch of coastline monitored by us.
It was the lowest number of nests found since 2007*.
Threats to sea turtles
Interviews with local community members indicate a perceived reduction in sea turtle nesting in the area over the past few years*. Classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) is ‘likely to become Endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve’. Sea turtles in the Kundapur region of Udupi District where we implement our conservation initiatives are threatened by various human activities, including:
- Poaching of turtles for meat and eggs,
- Development based disturbances that encroach on the turtles’ nesting grounds
- Harmful fishing practices which ensnare the turtles in nets or damage from boat propellers
Raising awareness of these issues is crucial to our conservation strategies; and we network with various like-minded, not-for-profit organizations and government institutions to save and protect these remarkable creatures.
Our conservation initiatives
Between October 18th and 20th, we participated in the Timi-Kurm (Whale-Turtle) Festival, 2013, organized by the Terra Marine Research Institute, India, which aimed to raise awareness on coastal and marine life. FSL India’s President, Mr. Rakesh S. Soans, spoke at the festival about our Sea Turtle Conservation initiatives.
A combination of awareness raising, networking and practical activities that protect turtle eggs until they are hatched and released into the sea, these initiatives aim to address all the major challenges faced by sea turtles.
The peak nesting season of the turtles has been observed to be between the months of November and January. During this period, volunteers set up around 12 temporary Turtle Information Centers (TICs) along the length of the 60 km beach, at a distance of 5 km each. The TICs raise awareness by providing information on turtles, best conservation practices, threats to turtles etc. as well as the contact number of an FSL staff member. Local community members are encouraged to contact our staff whenever a nest is spotted. The eggs are then relocated to hatcheries, so that they are protected until they hatch. Hatcheries are constructed simultaneously to TICs for this purpose. We also carry out surveys to document and gather information, during this time.
* Marine Turtles Along the Indian Coast: Distribution, Status, Threats and Management Implications, WWF Report, India