Chennai beaches get cleaned in time for Ridley nesting season

CHENNAI: Ahead of the peak Olive Ridley turtle nesting season, students and volunteers came together on Sunday to clean up the beach from near the broken bridge behind the Theosophical Society to Neelankarai.

The clean-up drive was carried out by the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN)to provide a safe nesting ground for the endangered turtles. February is the peak nesting season for Olive Ridley turtles which have been coming to the Chennai coast. Launching the drive, Nityanand Jayaraman, an volunteer of Reclaim Our Beaches (ROB) said over 50 youngsters will clean up the beachfront. Volunteers have been cleaning up and patrolling the 7-km stretch from from the Adyar river mouth to Neelankarai for three decades now.

“Students walk the stretch from December to April to locate nests and collect eggs, which are then safely relocated to the hatchery set up near the Adyar river mouth,” said SSTCN coordinator Akhila.

“Thirty years ago, over 100 nests could be found in a one kilometre area. Now, there are about 10 nests,” she said. Conservationists, however, are happy to an extent as the turtle population has remained stable over the past few years. This year began on a sad note with at least a dozen dead turtles were washed ashore affected by the oil slick along the ECR.

So far this year, the volunteers have found two nesting sites and have safely relocated 181 eggs to the hatchery.

“We measure the depth at which the nests are built and create the same depth in the hatchery for the hatchlings to emerge 45 days later,” said I Karmegam, a fisherman turned volunteer. “The female turtles come back to the same spot for nesting when they reach adulthood,” he said.

After hatching, the light-sensitive hatchlings strike out to the sea following the moonlight’s reflection on the ocean surface. However, the mastlights along the ECR disorient hatchlings and many end up dying trapped in the garbage and plant-growth. To prevent this, the Chennai Corporation has been asked to switch off the mast lights during the nesting season.

Fishermen have also been asked to avoid using fishing gear and techniques which would harm the turtles. A massive drive will be conducted to clean the Elliot’s beach on January 30. The message to the people: Keep the beach litter-free.

From TOI

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