Chennai and the Sea are synonymous with each other. On one hand the Sea brought the city the terrible Tsunami and on the other hand it brings gifts that are precious. The Beaches of Chennai are one such gift. Yes, this city has more than a dozen of them. The other precious gift shared by the Sea is – Oliver Ridley Turtles.
What are Oliver Ridley Turtles?
Oliver Ridley Turtles are Sea Turtles, their Scientific Name being. Lepidochelys Olivacea. They get their name due to the colour of their shell, which is a shade of Olive Green.
Why Oliver Ridley Turtles are important:
Sea Turtles are an important part of Marine Ecosystems and help maintain the health of Coral Reefs and Sea Grass Beds.
This endangered species nest in a chosen number of places, few and far in between. Any disturbance to even one nest on the beach could have repercussions on the entire population. These Turtles are usually found in the Mesoamerican Reef, Coastal East Africa, Gulf of California and the Coral Triangle.
The Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) is a voluntary organisation and are doing a wonderful job to help conserve this endangered species.
Isn’t it fortunate that the Oliver Ridley turtles have chosen the Beaches of Chennai to nest on?
Every year, between January and April, these Turtles lay their eggs on the beaches. They 7 km long stretch, from Neelangarai Beach to Besant Nagar Beach seems to be their favoured spot.
The SSTCN Team patrols the Beaches every night during this period looking for turtle eggs, which they collect and relocate to a safe place. When the Oliver Ridley Turtle Hatchlings emerge 45 days later, they are safely released into the Sea.
A Turtle Walk is organised by SSTCN, and you could register with them to attend it.
Please note: This is not a recreational walk you should do ‘for fun’. The people at SSTCN are putting in serious and selfless effort to help the environment and the rapidly dwindling Turtle Population. All 7 species of the Turtle are critically endangered and Team SSTCN is trying their best to change that.
What happens on a Turtle Walk?
The group meets at 11 pm and starts the walk, looking for Turtle Eggs. Sometimes you get lucky and spot them, and at other times you don’t spot a single one. There is no predefined time for a walk to end, it could end at 2 am or at 6 am. If you meet for a Hatching Season Walk, you could see the newly hatched Turtles being guided into the Sea. As you walk along you learn more about these Turtles from the details shared.
By the time I found out about this amazing initiative and walk, the nesting season was over and there were to be no more nests to be found. However, I am so glad I now know of Oliver Ridley Turtles and the Turtle Walk and I hope to attend next year.
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