CHENNAI: Volunteers from Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) and forest department staff have found and relocated more than 350 turtle nests this season, which is 100 more than the last nesting season.
The number of nests found along the Chennai coast, between Neelankarai in the south and Napier's Bridge in the north, has been on the higher side for the last two years. This year, 332 nests were found up from 285 last year. In 2012, 215 nests were found.
While SSTCN volunteers found 94 nests between Neelankarai and Urur Kuppam, those working with the forest department found and relocated 85 in the same stretch. On the other side of Adyar river, between Srinivasapuram and Napier's Bridge, volunteers found and relocated 153 nests.
This has translated into more than 20,000 hatchlings being safely released in the sea. "We will expand this activity across the state in the coming years," said an official from the department.
After being involved in turtle conservation in the late 1980s, the government has got involved in conserving Olive Ridleys — Schedule 1 endangered species under the Wildlife Protection Act — again.
About 10 to 12 nests are left in each of the hatcheries. "The hatching rate has been better this year as we found most of the nests in January and February. The later the nests are found, the lower the hatching rate due to the heat in April and May," said Akila Balu, SSTCN coordinator.
The forest department deployed eight staff to patrol the beach, twice every night. "We have released close to 6,500 hatchlings in the first year of operation," said David Raj, range officer. "Each of the 85 nests had between 120 and 155 eggs."
The volunteers and staff walk along the beach looking for tracks that turtles leave behind while coming ashore to lay eggs. The eggs are relocated from the beach — where the nests can be destroyed by dogs or poachers — and relocated to a hatchery. Hatchlings come out 45 to 60 days after nesting.