Turtle nestings look up on Goa beaches
Panaji: The turtle conservation project in Goa has received a massive boost after record number of turtle nestings were reported on the state`s beaches this year and more such shorelines were added to the list.
The beaches of Morjim and Ashwem witnessed an unusual number of Olive Ridley turtles visiting these beaches, who were taken into care and protection by the state forest department. The turtles visit the beaches to lay eggs from November to April every year. The state forest department officials are vouching for high number of turtle nestings in North Goa.
Deputy Conservator of Forest D N F Carvalho said that Morjim beach had record number of 13 nests while Ashwem, which had ceased to get turtles to lay their eggs since 2003 had three nests.
While forest department officials were busy protecting nests at these two sites, nests were also reported from Baga and Vagator, even though thery are very noisy due to thick presence of tourists.
The forest department has taken the initiative to provide a conducive atmosphere for turtles to lay their eggs and also looks after he eggs till they are hatched at these beaches.
The state government`s turtle protection project had hit a roadblock last year after only three nests were reported at Morjim beach. Worries were expressed that turtles might not turn up to Goan shorelines, that are over-exploited for tourism purposes.
Carvalho said corrective measures were implemented which finally fetched results. "The department took steps like restriction of lightings towards the sea at these protected sites," Carvalho said.
And now, the results are encouraging. This season, beginning from November, each egg fetched 120 baby turtles which were released into water, by officials. "Due to factors like beach erosion, the turtles does not go beyond high tide line (HTL). The forest department officials shifted the eggs just above HTL and fenced the area saving them from being trampled upon by humans or being eaten up by stray dogs," Carvalho added.
There were 13 nests at Morjim and two at Ashwem. The department found additional two sites – Baga and Vagator, where turtles laid the eggs. Ashwem too was considerably a new site as only in 2003 nestings were reported at this beach. The initiatives were also buoyed with the rate of survival.
The forest department recorded that 80 per cent of the eggs hatched and babies survived only to be released in water for their onward journey. The last hatching was recorded a week back with 27 eggs.
Traditionally, the sea turtles, who travel thousands of miles to reach the beaches, lay their eggs digging a hole in the sand and return back to their life underwater. "It takes almost 55 days for egg to hatch," officials said.
According to Assistant Conservator of Forests, A Heblekar there is a myth that the turtle comes back to the beach were it is born. "But there is no scientific support to this claim," he added.
Scientific studies indicate that it takes almost 15-20 years for a turtle to mature. It remains a mystery, however as to where do these turtles live during these years. "These years are called as lost years," Heblekar explained.