By Moinul Hoque Chowdhury
Dhaka, Bangladesh — For the first time in the last five years, Olive Ridley turtles on Saint Martin's island have started laying eggs three months ahead of their usual mating season.
Specialists fear that the breeding period was changing due to the threatened climatic conditions in that area, revealed in a regular surveillance of the coastal and water body biodiversity project of the Environment Directorate.
Mohammad Zafar Siddique, deputy secretary of the environment and forest, who is also the director of the project, told bdnews24.com on Tuesday that usually the breeding period began in October.
This year, however, the turtles have already laid more than 1,800 eggs, starting from July, and at least 300 offspring have already hatched so far in different areas of the island, Siddique added.
According to the data provided by the project director, Olive Ridleys have laid 148 eggs at Badam Buniya on July 15; 130 eggs on Aug 5 and 158 eggs on Aug 10 at Sheelbuniya; 170 eggs at Diarmatha on Aug 15; 125 eggs at Galachipa on Aug 28; 190 eggs at Perije on Sep 7; 160 eggs on Sep 12 and 130 eggs on Sep 13 at Sheelbuniya; 128 eggs at Prince Heaven on Sep 14; 130 eggs at Abakash Beach on Sep 15; 142 eggs on Sep 16; and 130 eggs on Sep 28 at Sheelbuniya.
Five species of turtles—Green Turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback—are currently found within the Bangladesh maritime boundary. All of these species are threatened with extinction.
Among these five species Olive Ridleys lay its eggs mostly in Saint Martin's island.
"Excessive tourists during the winter, fishing in the area, and especially climatic changes are the main impediments to the turtles' successful breeding," Siddique told bdnews24.com.
The change in the breeding period of this long-endangered species might have resulted as means to adopt with the changing climate, the deputy secretary suggested, thorough research should be carried out in this regard, he added.
Abdul Mannan, senior meteorologist of the met office, told bdnews24.com, "the unplanned activities of humans have impacted the climate negatively. This change is felt as the normal cycle of the season is interrupted. It can also affect sea animals."
Zafar Alam, Marine Science Institute teacher at the Chittagong University, said the turtles' breeding season usually starts from mid-September to October.
"All creatures want to adjust with the changing climate. The environmental disturbance on the island as well as environment of the sea will have an effect on the turtles' breeding trends," he said.
Alam added that this might be a warning for the biodiversity in Saint Martin's. A great number of tourists throng the island from November to February, which hampers the natural breeding of turtles.
Dhaka University professor of Zoology, Sohrab Uddin Sarker, told bdnews24.com that this instance of laying eggs before time is abnormal.
The government should have to sternly impose the existing rules and regulations to preserve the biodiversity, he added. He also warned that the entire biodiversity of the area would be threatened if immediate measures were not taken.