The beaches of Orissa (Devi, Gahirmatha and Rushikulya) are one of the last nesting grounds for these turtles. Even though they are considered abundant, their numbers have been dwindling due to increased activities of trawling and mining. They are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List; and Endangered under US Endangered Species Act, Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992. [Source: Wikipedia]
National Marine Fisheries Service, USA quotes Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) of the IUCN that there has been a 50% reduction in population size since the 1960s. Gahirmatha, Orissa, India used to be one of the largest nesting sites in the world. Over the past five years at Gahirmatha, there has been a nesting event in only two of those five years. A survey of 27 West African nations indicated that nesting females were killed in 14 of those countries for their eggs meat and skin.
Off the coast of the Indian Ocean, the major cause for the decline of these turtles is the coming of age of the shrimp trawling. As the fishermen started to employ modern technology to increase the size of their catch, more than 76, 980 turtles have been killed; says a study on “Olive ridley mortality in gillnets in Orissa” by Wright and Mohanty, 2002.
Lepidochelys olivacea as they are known scientifically, in the wild they are known to survive upto 50 years. It is believed that Olive Ridley turtles return to nest on the same beach they are hatched. That shows how much they trust in the beaches that they were born on and that is why they return to the same beach, hoping that their babies too would survive if they are born on the same beaches.
What are we HUMANS doing? We betray their trust in Mother Nature by slaughtering the females for their meat and skin and harvest the eggs that they have laid. If that is not enough, fueled by our greed to become the most developed nation if the world; a sea port is coming up right in the vicinity of the nesting area of these turtles. The Tata’s claim that the Port limits of the upcoming Dhamra port is outside the turtle nesting area as well as the National Marine Sanctuary and the Bhitarkanika National Park. Greenpeace disagrees saying that the Tata’s should suspend the dredging work at the port for an independent and comprehensive threat assessment, which the Tata’s had agreed to earlier “in principle.” Despite the concern expressed by the authorities [you can read about it here], the Tata’s have been adamant.
I had a lot of respect for the TATA’s. I have none now. I was proud and overwhelmed when Tata’s chairman had outlined his vision for the common man. I am ashamed now. I am ashamed of myself, my helplessness. Hypocrisy should not go unpunished. If I had the money, because it is the money that talks here in India; I could have made a difference. Working 9 hours a day, I am helpless. All I can do is to write about it and clear my GUILT.
Image sources: Free Clipart Now and National Geographic.