By Cynthia Chandran
Worried over reports that Olive Ridley turtles are becoming extinct, the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram is launching an awareness campaign. The species used to flock the Kerala coastline in large numbers to lay eggs, but not any more.
The Archdiocese is setting up a ‘Trivandrum Matsya Forum,’ that would educate the fisher folk on ways to combat sand smuggling as well as sea erosion, so that the nesting habitats are set for the Olive Ridley turtles to lay eggs.
Olive Ridley turtles, an endangered species, used to come in their thousands to the Kerala coastline, especially at Kolavippalam beach at Payyoli in Kozhikode district during the September-March period.
This special ritual is referred to as ‘Arribada’ in Spanish which means the ‘grand arrival’.However, during the last few years, very few Olive Ridley turtles came to the shore.
“We have initiated discussions to create social awareness among the fisher folk on conserving the beaches so that Olive Ridley turtles continue coming to the Kerala shore for their annual egg laying,” Father Eugene Pereira, Vicar General at the Vellayambalam bishop house, told DC.
A coastal-based environmental group, Theeram Nature Conservation Society (TNCS), has been doing yeomen service since 1998 in protecting these turtles and their nesting habitats.
The eggs thus protected undergo natural incubation in artificial nests and the hatchlings that emerge are safely released into the sea.
According to Suresh Babu, president of TNCS, the number of Oliver Ridley turtles has dwindled from 65 to less than 10 which have been alarming.
“There is hardly any beach left at Kolavippalam beach due to sand smuggling. We don’t know what the government and the Coastal Zone Management Authority have been doing in order to protect the endangered turtles,” said Suresh Babu.
However, Sanjeeva Ghosh, former additional director of fisheries, has an optimistic view. “Olive Ridley turtles’ breeding grounds are not confined to one area, they are migratory too,” he said.