TRUST FOR ENVIRONMENT EDUCATION, CONSERVATION & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
TURTLE WALK EXPERIENCE
TREE Foundation was founded in 2002 with the aim of protecting marine turtle population, understanding the interrelatedness between coastal communities and the marine resources upon which the former survive. To focus on initiatives that combine conserving species and habitat with empowering local people is the only solution-incorporating the human element from a variety of perspectives including: education programs, capacity building, economic development /poverty alleviation, human and animal health programs and networking with various government departments/agencies.
As part of TREE Foundations community based sea turtle conservation program jointly run with the Tamil Nadu Forest Departments wildlife wing and the Department of Fisheries, the Kadal Aamai Paadukavalargal (KAP) members patrol the beaches from Periya Neelangarai to Marakanam. This year with the support from the Whitley Associate Award form UK, TREE Foundation has been able to extend its community based sea turtle conservation program up to Marakanam covering 25 fishing villages and 76 k.ms. During the regular night patrolling the Sea Turtle Protection Force members at Injambakkam observed a female turtle crawl out of the surf onto the beach around 10:45 pm 26th evening. She carefully chose the nest area and started digging her nest with her hind flippers. After digging her nest she started laying the ping pong ball size eggs, she laid up to 110 eggs. The volunteers of TREE Foundation patiently waited for the turtle to complete her nesting process. During nesting the turtle goes into a trance so during that time, Dr. Supraja Dharini immediately tagged the turtles front flippers with Identification Flipper Tags to mark the turtles when they re nest. Simultaneously, small skin scrapings from the right & left hind flippers were collected for a detailed genetic study. The length of the turtle carapace and other dimensions were also recorded for scientific study purpose. Then the turtle after camouflaging her nest to protect from predators moved back into the sea. Once she left, the KAP members carefully removed the eggs and placed them in a sturdy cloth bag. Then the nest dimensions were noted. With the exact same dimensions another nest was artificially created in the protected hatchery. Then these eggs were carefully placed inside the new nest. Then the nest was covered carefully for incubation and nest details noted in the data sheets.
Since temperature plays a very important role in incubation
of the eggs, it is important to monitor the temperature within the hatcheries.
In 2006 when we first started our ex-situ sea turtle conservation, it
was observed that the eggs those relocated during the end of the season
after march 15th have not incubated properly, there was high mortality
of hatchlings. Almost all the eggs relocated in the last week of march
did not hatch. On verification and discussion within the TREE Foundations
sea turtle protection force and marine research wing with advise from
Dr. Collin Limpus placed losely woven coconut thatch over the hatchery
from 2007 onwards.
We are using Thermal Data Loggers to record the temperature within the nest and also in the hatchery. The thermal data logger will record temperature every two minutes. Therefore, after the hatchlings emerge the data will be analyzed to verify the temperature during the incubation period. The temperature during the 35th to 40th day will give us an insight as to approximately how many of the emerged hatchling could have been male or female. When the temperature is between 25 to 30 degrees the hatchlings emerge as male and when the temperature is between 30 to 35 degrees the hatchlings emerge as female. This monitoring is very important in ex-situ hatchery management. TREE Foundation is doing this study jointly with Dr. Kartik Shanker for Chennai and Data loggers sponsored by Dr. Thane Wibbles to Nellore, AP.
We have so far recorded 46 nests and also recorded 47dead Olive Ridley, 3 Green turtles and 3 hawksbill turtles washed ashore only in the 13 km stretch between Neelangarai Kannathur. As TREE Foundation has obtained permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden Mr Sundararaju IFS (who has been deeply concerned about the high mortality of stranded animals) to conduct necropsy on the dead sea turtles, and marine mammals. The necropsy procedures to ascertain the cause of death have been undertaken by the Department of Pathology. Madras Veterinary College and the TREE Foundation members. So far 9 necropsys have been conducted and 209 eggs from 2 female turtle shave been retrieved and the KAP members have buried them in the sand to see if they might hatch as the eggs looked still intact. It was heartening to see there concern for the future of sea turtles. It is important to note that during the 2005 turtle season just after the Tsunami, there was no dead turtles washed ashore. As all the mechanized boats where off fishing and the fishing pressure was very minimal we recorded zero dead turtles. We hope to create maximum awareness for the plight of the sea turtles and gather support to take this up with the Department of Fisheries.
While walking along the beach during new moon night or nights that the moon is not visible you could observe the bio luminescence ( microscopic phyto plankton along the tide line). It is really an amazing experience to find these organisims.
The nests and dead turtles are monitored up till Marakanam by 34 newly recruited KAP whose monthly incentive is partly supported by the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department Nagapattinam.
Requirements for participants :
Warm clothing; walking shoes, flash light, and bottle
of water (please do not litter the beaches with plastic wrappers) camera.
Urgent Requirements for the Community Based Sea Turtle Conservation
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