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Ridley Turtle - Orissa

The coast of Orissa in India, is one of the largest nesting site of Olive Ridley Turtle. Olive Turtle is one of the seven species of the sea turtle found all over world and has been declared as endangered by IUCN. They are the migratory creatures that nests on the sandy beaches close to the bay or estuaries. Infact, they are the smallest of the marine turtle species in the world. However the recent reports of death of ten thousand olives (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the past few years is a serious issue. Environmentalist say that the population of the Ridley Turtle is plummeting and it will disappear very soon, if the illegal poaching of their eggs, contamination of the water and human development near their nesting ground continues at such a high rate.

Ridley Turtle - Orissa There is a constant fight going on between the environment and development at three major nesting sites of Olive Ridley Turtle in Orissa : - The Nasi Islands in Gahirmatha, the Devi river mouth and the Rushikulya river mouth. During the month of January to March half of the million turtles nests here. Single female adult lays around 100- 140 eggs at a time. Every year large number of these endangered Olives turtle are killed by illegal fishing trawlers. For the past many centuries they have been haunted for their skin and meat. Apart from that they become easy prey to the predators like jackals, dogs, and seagulls etc.

The future of these Turtles is obviously in danger as the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests has allowed two major companies of India – Oil and Natural Gas Cooperation of India (ONGC) and Reliance Industries (RIL) to carry out the off shore drilling off the coast of Orissa. The proposal has been alloted to drill 20 exploratory wells in the area.

ONGC has been alloted two blocks. One of them is located around the Chilka Lake, which is the largest Brackish water lagoon in Asia. Oil spill would cause disturbance to the lake fragile habitat, which is the home to rare Irrawady Dolphin and 1 million migratory waterfowl. Than the plans to construct the new steel and ore port at Dharma, which lies less than 15 km distance from the Gahimatha Marine Sanctuary is a matter of serious concern. Pollution and artificial lights from the giant port would be the greatest threat to the nesting turtles. If constructed, it will be largest port in South Asia. The port is the joint venture between the Tata Steel and Larsen and Toubro. Than it is the question of livelihood of thousands of fisherman in the area.

In order to protect the Olive Ridley turtle, the Gahirmatha coast has been assigned as the Marine Sanctuary. In 2003 WWF launched a campaign in the Rushikulya nesting site for the protections of their nests and the hatchlings. The Government of Orissa is planning to declare Rushikulya rookery as the protected area. Than Green Peace India (NGO), has launched many campaigns to protect the Olive Ridley Turtle and its nesting site. On the other hand Indian Oil Cooperation has alloted 10 million rupees to the Orissa forest department for the protection of the turtles. Oilve Ridley turtle are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), and its killing or threatening could lead to two years to seven years of imprisonment. It is also protected under Cities International Conservation agreement (CICA).

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