Saturday, 12 May 2018

121 Hatchlings released from Periya Neelankarai Hatchery

On 19th April 2018 at around 4.00 pm, 121 hatchlings were released 15 feet away from the high tide line in Neelankarai Beach by Dr. Supraja Dharini along with TREE Foundation Team. The temperature of the nest was recorded to be 32 degrees Celsius, while the temperature outside the hatchery was found to be 36 degrees Celsius, a less than ideal temperature for turtle hatchlings to come out. And yet, the hatchlings strove to crawl out of their nest and into the ocean. Temperature plays a major role in determining the sex of the hatchlings. If the temperature of the nest is between 25 to 30 degrees, most of the hatchlings will be born as males and if the temperature is between 30 to 35 degrees, the hatchlings are born as females. But, if the temperature rises above 35 degrees, the eggs get boiled, and the hatchlings won’t survive. Hence, it is extremely important to maintain the nest temperature below 32- 33 degrees. While the eggs are incubating it will be 2 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. TREE Foundation’s Sea Turtle Protection Force Members (STPF’s) place coconut thatch/ palm leaves above their respective hatcheries and in-situ nests to reduce the temperature. Further, they sprinkle water on the thatch and the gunny sacks placed around the hatchery when it becomes too hot. In addition to all that, they also check the temperature outside and inside the hatchery and in- situ nests every morning, afternoon and evening regularly, using an external thermometer.
Working jointly with the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu, TREE Foundation’s Sea Turtle Protection Force Members (STPF’s) have gathered nearly 424 nests along the Kanchipuram coast, Tamil Nadu till date. Each nest contains nearly 80 to 120 eggs. After 48 to 52 days, the baby hatchlings emerge from these nests and set out on their journey into the expansive ocean. Watching these baby turtles (known as a "hatchlings") struggle out of the nest and make their way to the water is an emotional experience. Everything from footprints to driftwood and crabs are obstacles, though this gauntlet is important for their survival. Birds, stray dogs, and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face; some experts say only one out of a thousand will survive to adulthood under natural conditions.
Oceans are unhealthy and under significant threat from overfishing, pollution and climate change. It is time for us to protect sea turtles and rebuild their populations to healthy levels as a vital step in ensuring healthy and resilient oceans for the future. As sea turtles are highly migratory they need to be protected at all life stages, whether as newly born hatchlings, nesting females, mating partners, foraging off our coast or migrating individuals.TREE Foundation is an NGO, founded by Dr. Supraja Dharini in 2002, inspired and guided by Dr. Jane Goodall DBE, and driven by compassion and care for the welfare of all animals, environment and communities. TREE Foundation pioneered a successful community- based conservation program for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles that nest along the South- eastern coast of India. The foundation focuses on the conservation of sea turtles through community education and training. Local young fishermen, who previously were turtle egg poachers, are now engaged as Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF) members. This provides them with an alternative means of livelihood.
They are now the key players in monitoring nesting turtles, relocating eggs into hatcheries, providing protection from poachers and predators, and releasing lakhs of baby turtles to the sea. They are also involved in spreading the conservation message to community members. The have gained recognition from the State Forest Department. TREE Foundation uses the Olive Ridley as a flagship species to address marine conservation issues within the fishing community. TREE Foundation works jointly with the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department, the Department of Fisheries of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the Indian Coast Guard and the Marine Police.
The program covers 42 villages along a stretch of 126 km in Chennai-Kanchipuram; 5 villages in Sulurpeta along a stretch of 34 km; 54 villages in Nellore district along a stretch of 88 km; 38 villages along a stretch of 54 km in Prakasam district;3 villages along a stretch of 22 km in Guntur district;4 sandbars and 3 villages in Krishna District along a stretch of 54 km; 12 villages in Vizianagaram along a stretch of 28 km Andhra Pradesh;56 villages along a stretch of 144 km in Srikakulam district; and 5 villages along a stretch of 23 km in Ganjam, Odisha.TREE Foundation is expanding its current program to protect turtles at sea and minimize accidental catch of sea turtles during fishing activities, in order to reduce mortality of turtles coming in to nest, in addition to protecting turtle nesting sites and turtle eggs.

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