CANACONA: In an unusual development, Forest (Wildlife) erects a Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (TRC) hut 500 metres away, while protecting the only Turtle Nest (Pit-containing 150 eggs) at the original place on Agonda beach in Canacona taluka.
It may be recalled that Agonda is the only Turtle Reserved beach this turtle hatching season, which has received a lone mother turtle laid 150 eggs, and the Forest department engaged Rescuers shifted the same at the artificially prepared Pit at the Nursery site at Divanbhag area on 16th November.To the surprise of everyone, the Forest Department instead of putting-up a hut/Shed at the usual place (Nursery Site), had instead erected a hut and this time an elevated Box-type hut on the shore sands behind the Agonda Church. Presently, the Forest department Rescuers supposed to guard the Turtle Eggs Pits and take rounds on the beach shore occupies this TRC’s hut, situated around 500 metres away from the Turtle Eggs Pit protected at Divanbhag area. Rescuers who are supposed to protect the Turtle Pits from poachers or animals, besides surveying the coastline during night hours, however stations themselves at the TRC, while the lone Turtle Pit carrying 150 eggs is situated at the old nursery 500 metres away.
When contacted Marine Range (South) Officer incharge Rajesh Naik informed the Rescuers had already shifted and re-planted the eggs laid at the original place in the last month, whereas on the direction of higher-ups and as we were given guidance during Research Training, we have decided to shift the TRC to a new site on a trial basis. The decision is purely technical and there’s no pressure from anyone or even from Shack operators in the Divanbhag area as made out in some angles. ‘Why should we accept Shack operators’ demands? It is purely done to minimise the mortality rate of Olive ridley babies during hatching period. During the Research training, we are told that changing the hatchery/nursery location can minimise mortality rate. Since the first batch of turtle eggs is already transplanted at the old site, we thought not to disturb it now, but henceforth the new Pits will be set up next to the TRC. Actually the Turtle Pits is a tourist attraction also, and many tourists flock to the area to see the turtle pits and then also come to watch the release of olive ridley babies into the sea. So, the shacks get business out of the tourists flocking to the Nursery area, so there;’s no point in saying Shack operators had pressured the shifting of Nursery Site. Atleast I was not approached by any shack operators, but we did it on the directions of our higher ups to a new location.’, Naik informed.
Locals are wary that the Forest department has bugged down to the private Shacks lobby, who are accused of putting up not only Shacks (Restaurants) but also Huts decorated with heavy lightning right close to the Nursery Site, virtually disturbing Turtle Nursery.
According to locals, ever since the Forest department began to take care of the endangered sea species of Olive Ridley, sea-turtle eggs were protected and cordoned off in different pits at The Nursery site at Divanbhag area of Agonda beach which during the last season has alone accounted for 67 olive ridley Turtle pits, 7278 turtle eggs were protected and had released over 6230 hatchlings becoming the most fertile turtle procreation year.
What worries the locals, is the new site situated right behind the church is very prone to sand erosion, and at the instance of even minor rough seas, the area is badly affected by way of sand erosion. ‘As this area is very prone to constant sand erosion, the Turtle Pits will be washed away more often than one can anticipate’, informed a local.
When specifically asked about the new Nursery site, RFO Rajesh Naik informed It will be observed for a season. ‘But certainly the shifting of TRC to the new site is not permanent, and it will be observed for one season, and if required it will be reverted back to the original site again. We are told the area is very prone to sand erosion but during monsoons. Our Turtle procreation season mainly gets over by March or may extend to April, we may have to take extra precautions if any sands erosion happens during this period. In all probability , we will check this year, and if the Turtle Nests are getting destroyed during sea rampage then certainly we will take a call on it.