The Hindu , 15 February 2006

Olive Ridley turtles released into sea

Kozhikode: Sixty-eight Olive Ridley baby turtles hatched at the makeshift hatchery at the Centre Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) at West hill here were released into the sea off Kozhikode coast on Tuesday.

The babies were hatched out of the eggs the officials had collected from the Kozhikode beach in December. It was the first time an endangered Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) female turtle swam to the shores of Kozhikode beach on December 23.

"The babies were been released before sunrise. The timings were selected so as to increase their survival rate," said senior scientist P.N. Radhakrishnan Nair, who released the babies into the sea.

It took 48- 2 days for the eggs to hatch. The baby turtles were kept in a special pond at the institute. Seventy-one eggs had been hatched. Three of the babies have been kept at the institute for the scientists to conduct further studies on the nature of growth of these particular species. Twenty-three eggs that hatched were found to be undeveloped, Dr. Radhakrishnan Nair said.

Earlier, officials had made arrangements at the hatchery for the incubation of 94 eggs, which they had collected in December. The mother turtle had then laid 97 eggs in a sand chamber. Two eggs had been buried in the sand and one of them had been damaged. It had been done primarily to protect the eggs from predators. Dogs and foxes usually hunt for turtle eggs on the beach.

A large number of people, including local fishermen, had gathered on the beach before sunrise to witness the event. "Now people have become more concerned about protecting these endangered species," Dr. Nair said.

Dr. Nair said that the babies would possibly return to nest on the Kozhikode beach. Kolavipalam, 25 kms from Kozhikode is a breeding site for Olive Ridleys from September to March. A female turtle might have had come here to lay eggs because of the sea erosion at Kolavipalam.

These endangered species, said to be smallest of the sea turtles migrate thousands of miles seeking a sandy beach to lay eggs. Female turtles remain faithful to the same beach each time they are ready to nest.