Kendrapara, Nov 6 (LocalWire): The forest department has decided to use drones fitted with thermal cameras to count the population of nesting Olive Ridley sea turtles on the beach, said Vivek Kumar, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Ganjam.
He was addressing a meeting on Conservation of Olive Ridley sea turtles for the current season 2019-20 in Odisha, on Tuesday in Bhubaneswar.
Drones will be used for the first time to count Olive Ridley sea turtle populations and track their movements at Rushikulya beach.
We will get perfect pictures of the turtles on the beach without disturbing the marine creatures, added the forest officer.
‘Drones are portable so anyone can carry it all in the beach.
We will closely survey the turtles from the sky.
With the help of drones we will collect the exact number of turtles in the nesting sites.
Drones will also be used to monitor mating turtles in the sea, added the forest officer.
Drones will further help in habitat management, preventing conflicts among fishermen and turtles and checking illegal fishing activities.
‘Counting the exact number of nesting turtles on the beach has been a major challenge for field staff over the years.
We used to count turtles by dividing the beach into many segments. But now, the drones will help us gather information about the exact number of turtles on the beach,’ added the forest officer.
The forest official of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary within Bhitarkanika National Park requested the officials of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) to put off bright lights at the missile test range at the Abdul Kalam island to facilitate mass-nesting of turtles at Gahirmatha, the world’s largest rookery of turtles, said Bikash Ranjan Dash, the divisional forest officer of the park.
Artificial lights on the missile test range at Abdul Kalam Island near Gahiramatha beach disorients hatching turtles and adult females in ways that can be deadly.
‘We will deploy forest guards to prevent the entry of natural predators like birds, dogs, jackals, hyena, wild boars or other animals in the vicinity of the nesting sites at Rushikulya and Gahiramatha which feast on eggs and baby turtles.
Mortality rate is so high that out of every 1000 eggs laid, one egg ultimately hatches and the hatchlings survives to become an adult olive Ridley.
Last year, the turtles skipped Rushikulya beach. This year they have congregated near Rushikulya so we are hopeful that they will come to Rushikulya soon to lay eggs.
Around 4.75 lakh Olive Ridley turtles nested on the beach of Rushikulya two years back,’ said Rabindranath Sahu the secretary of Rushikulya Sea Turtles Protection Committee.