For the first time on the west coast of India, a female Olive Ridley Sea Turtle was successfully satellite tagged at Velas Beach here, officials said Tuesday.

The turtle has been named 'Prathama', and was released in the Arabian Sea, signifying the start of a new era in sea turtle conservation in Maharashtra and the west coast.

Till now, Olive Ridley Sea Turtles have been satellite tagged only on the eastern coast of India.

As part of the project, the Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra (MFM), Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) plan to satellite tag another 4 Olive Ridley Sea Turtles at Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg beaches where the amphibians come for nesting.

Velas Beach, the picturesque stretch of clean sand, has emerged as a hub for conservation - and eco-tourism attraction - of the Olive Ridley turtles, earning admiration from all quarters.

"The Mangrove Foundation of Maharashtra has been one of the most active agencies in the past few years. In the last 2 years, we've been able to declare and protect more than 11,000 hectares of mangrove area. I commend the mangrove cell on this successful satellite tagging for further study," said Environment and Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray lauding the achievement.

The three institutions have also commissioned and launched a research project - 'Tracking the migratory movements of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles off the coast of Maharashtra', to help understand the movement patterns of these creatures on the country's west coast.

The turtles visit different beaches in the Konkan coastal region annually, during the December-February breeding season, and are between 2-2.5 feet long and weigh around 34-50 kgs.

Having a life-span of upto 100 years, the turtles are essentially migratory but during the breeding season, the females come to the shore, burrow 12-20 inches deep holes in the dry sand and lay around 100-150 eggs there.

However, the survival rate is very low, barely 1 percent (or, only one out of 100 survive) as the eggs or hatchlings are devoured by various terrestrial and aerial predators, necessitating their conservation.

Among the places famed in the Konkan are Kelshi, Velas, Anjarle and other beaches where the turtles come up in large numbers for nesting during winter,

There's a dedicated annual Turtle Festival to attract tourists and create awareness of the conservation efforts, besides giving a boost to the local economy.

Sea turtles are essential to enable a balanced ocean ecosystem as they keep the sea waters clean by consuming dead fish and sea grass.


Source : IANS

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