TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
THE CONTEXT: The recent resurgence of Olive Ridley turtles on the beaches of Mangaluru, Karnataka, after a hiatus of 29 years, is a significant environmental milestone.
- The return of these turtles, categorized as Schedule 1 animals under the Wildlife Act of 1972, underscores positive changes in the beach ecosystem.
- The successful nesting on Tannirbhavi and Sasihithlu beaches on February 5, 2024, is attributed to concerted conservation efforts, including beach cleaning, night patrolling, and protective measures.
Environmental Factors Leading to the Hiatus:
- The absence of nesting sites since 1985 was linked to environmental factors such as increased salinity and beach pollution due to human activities.
- The recent resurgence indicates a positive shift, potentially due to reduced pollution and limited human interference, making these beaches suitable habitats for the sensitive Olive Ridley turtles.
Conservation Activities and Local Involvement:
- The nesting sites are under vigilant protection through a ‘clipper movement’ involving barricading and constant patrolling by both forest officials and local fisherfolk.
- The involvement of the community, including youth from nearby fishing villages, showcases a collaborative effort to protect the eggs from natural predators like dogs, birds, and jackals.
Conservation Challenges and Measures:
- The forest minister of Karnataka emphasizes the need for incentives and awareness among fisherfolk assisting in conservation.
- The conservation efforts extend beyond protection, with the forest department ensuring a 40-day guarding period for the nesting sites until the hatchlings safely reach the sea.
Olive Ridley Turtles: Sensitivity and Importance:
- Olive Ridley turtles, equivalent in conservation importance to tigers and elephants, are extremely sensitive to human activity.
- Their choice to nest in uninhabited parts of Tannirbhavi and Sasihithlu highlights the need for undisturbed environments for successful nesting.
Ecosystem Impact and Conservation Significance:
- Experts from the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal, Fisheries and Animal Sciences University emphasize the ecological significance of Olive Ridley turtles.
- They feed on jellyfish, known for their ability to control fish populations and pose threats to fisherfolk.
- The return of nesting in southern Karnataka prompts further research into the reasons behind this migration from established sites like Kundapur and Byndoor.
Decline in Olive Ridley Population:
- The Olive Ridley turtles are classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List, facing threats such as degradation of nesting beaches, directed harvest, and by-catch in fisheries.
- Despite increased conservation efforts, there has been a 50% reduction in population size since the 1960s, necessitating ongoing protection.
Global Context and Conservation Challenges:
- While the numbers arriving on Karnataka beaches may not surpass those at Gahirmatha beach in Odisha, the revival in southern Karnataka signifies a positive trend.
- Conservationists raise concerns about the lack of regulatory measures on the western front compared to the eastern coast, where more stringent regulations are in place.
Why Conserve Olive Ridley Turtles:
- Conservation specialists stress the importance of protecting Olive Ridley turtles globally, given their status as the most exploited sea turtle species.
- The 50% reduction in population size since the 1960s underlines the urgency of conservation efforts to ensure the natural progression of hatchlings into the sea and prevent poaching.
Olive Ridley turtles:
- The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
- They are found to be inhabiting the warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
- They are carnivores and feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs, and a variety of fish and their eggs.
- The males and females grow to the same size.
- These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
- The coast of Orissa in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.
- The species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
- They lie in Scheduled 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- They are in Appendix I of the CITES.
- The return of Olive Ridley turtles to Mangaluru beaches marks a significant environmental achievement.
- It reflects the success of conservation measures, local involvement, and a shift towards cleaner and less human-impacted beach environments.
- The ongoing protection of nesting sites and collaboration between communities, government, and conservationists demonstrate a collective commitment to preserving these endangered marine species.