The local fishermen at Kasarkod Tonka in Honnavar alleged that nearly 250 hatchlings of the critically endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, a scheduled-I animal protected under the wildlife protection act 1972, are missing from their nest area.
They said while there is enough proof to prove that nearly 250 hatchlings emerged from an ‘unprotected’ nest on the beach, none of them has made it to sea as their footprints are missing midway in the beach. The local fishermen fear that someone might have ‘poached’ these hatchings as there are shoe-prints of two humans around the nest.
However, forest officials dismiss the fear and claim that all the hatchings might have reached the sea and they are not missing.
The beach has become a bone of contention between the local fishermen and a private port that has been planned near Kasarkod Tonka. It can also be mentioned that in the last two months the beach has reported the death of at least seven female adult Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Ganapati Tandel, President of Freshwater Fishers’ Association, Honnavar charged that a series of efforts are being made to prove that Kasarkod Tonka is not a breeding ground of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. The private company recently had also tried to fill the portion of the beach with red soil to prevent the turtles from reaching the beach. He, along with other local fishermen, who are ‘unofficially’ guarding the beach in the night claim that more than 10 female Olive Ridley sea turtles have laid more than 2,500 eggs on the beaches of Honnavar between December and February.
Speaking to DH, Honnavar Deputy Conservator of Forests Ganapathi K said not single hatching of the Olive Ridley sea turtles is missing from the beaches. “We have fenced all the nests of the turtles and ensuring round the clock protection. The footprints that were noticed last night (February 21) might be of one nest that did not come to our notice. Our forest guards are vigilant round the clock and have complete knowledge of the turtles,” he said and added that as soon as the hatchlings emerge out of the nest they reach the sea as any delay would result in them dying of dehydration.
“Their footprints are so soft that they can be erased by wind or breeze,” he said.
Sources in Forest Department confirmed to DH that last night they released one of the hatchlings into the sea. However, they did not find the other hatchlings.
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