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Braving the oil slick that has stubbornly clung to the city shoreline since January 28, olive ridley turtles have laid more than 9,400 eggs along the coast. All of them have been shifted to hatcheries for incubation.
Chennai Wildlife Warden K Geethanjali told TOI that forest department staff, who regularly patrol the city beaches, had till Tuesday collected 9,418 eggs from 80 nests.
Geethanjali said eggs collected from nests on the stretch from Marina to Besant Nagar were incubating at the hatchery on Elliot's Beach, while those collected from nests further south were at the hatchery on the Vadanemmeli beach in Kancheepuram district.
Supraja Dharini, chairperson of the TREE Foundation which works for environment education, conservation and community development, said no turtles had died this season due to the oil slick. Two turtles found dead on the Ernavur coast recently with a coat of oil on their bodies had died after being entangled in fishing nets. The carcasses floated towards the place where the oil slick was and got stuck in it, she added.
This has been a good nesting season for the entire country. Sea turtle biologist and programme officer Dakshin Foundation Muralidharan Manoharakrishnan said the Rushikulya river mouth in Odisha was the site of Aribadda, the mass nesting of turtles. This year, the event lasted from February 13 to 20. Last year, there was no mass nesting in Rushikulya. This season, 3.5 lakh turtles came to the Rushikulya river mouth for nesting, Muralidharan said. Gehirmatha, another site where mass nesting once took place, is now empty, he said.
The nesting season has been good in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh too, said Supraja Dharini, adding that turtles had come in good numbers to beaches in Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur, Krishna, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam district. Around 97,295 eggs were collected and shifted to the hatcheries, she said.
S S Davidson, managing trustee of Kanyakumari-based Tribal Foundation, said this year their teams had collected 10,300 olive ridley eggs from the shore and safely put them in hatcheries. Last year, only 5,200 eggs were collected from the 28 km stretch of beach in the district. In the current season, more than 1,000 hatchlings had been released into the sea, he said.
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