The Hindu , 14 January 2005

Campaign to protect Olive Ridley turtles

HYDERBAD: The breeding season for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles may turn out to be relatively safe this year as they nest on the shores off Orissa coast, thanks to a new initiative of Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace India is giving a new dimension to its campaign for protection of Olive Ridley turtle by launching a new campaign at Gahirmata, off Orissa coast from Monday.

Destination

Executive Director G. Ananthapadmanabhan told media persons here on Friday that volunteers committed to protect marine biodiversity would gather at Gahirmata, the destination for the mass nesting or `Arribada' of Olive Ridley turtles which arrive in lakhs to the Orissa coast for the mating season. Joining the Greenpeace would be Blue Cross, an NGO working for welfare of animals, its founder Amala Akkineni and other members.

A Greenpeace boat and floating buoys would demarcate the area in the ocean abounded by turtles to alert fishing trawlers and boats from venturing into the vulnerable area and destroying the turtles. Its volunteers would also keep vigil on the shore during day and night to protect the eggs and the hatchlings. Only one in every 1,000 hatchlings was said to survive to adulthood under natural conditions and live for about 80 years.

Mating season

Though the law prohibited fishing in the Gahirmatha sanctuary during mating season, due to lack of enforcement, over a lakh turtles were found dead on the shores every year. Thus the activists from all over the world and country and others would patrol the area in turns for about four months till the end of nesting season and the hatchlings go back to the ocean safely, he said.

Amala who would launch the campaign at Gahirmata described Arribada as nature's wonder when lakhs of turtles come to Orissa coast to lay eggs and go back. The gentle creatures were massacred mercilessly in Mexico and Costa Rica coasts. The onus was now on India to protect the endangered species that would come to Orissa coast.

The fragile marine biodiversity was crucial for man's survival too, she said.