SSTCN – Turtle season 2012
SSTCN’s turtle season of 2012 started with a very unusual problem – there was just no space on the beach near the Adyar estuary to put up the hatchery! The entire beach above the high tide line was covered in dense ipomoea plants with deep and extensive roots. Our team scouted the area around the estuary and decided on a spot and hired two men to clear the ipomoea. But at the end of two days of hard work, we realised we needed help. We had to then approach the corporation and get their permission to hire a JCB and clear a small patch of beach area off ipomoea! Only then we could set up the hatchery.
Things didn’t exactly look up after that! The first nest of the season was found only on the 10th of January, the second after a gap of another week and so on. We had only nine nests in January while in the 2011 season we had three times that number in January alone! The only thing to rejoice about was the absence of too many dead turtles unlike previous years.
Several theories were proposed – the Thane cyclone was one while others said it was because of sun storms that interfered with the earth’s magnetic field on which turtles rely to navigate around the globe. Whatever the reason, the low nesting continued into February which is usually our peak nesting period every season. While we had 56 nests in the Besant Nagar area in 2011, we had only 27 nests in February this year. March had only 8 nests as against 16 last year. While we had 99 nests last year, we had just 44 this season.
The Marina side though kept us from completely losing heart. January yielded 15 nests which was better than the southern side of the Adyar estuary and better than last season where we barely found any nests in January. Nesting picked up in February with 30 nests as opposed to 41 in 2011. March also was comparable with another 28 nests. Last season we had 43 nests in March on the Marina side. The total number this season in Marina was 76 which was only a little less than the 85 we found in the 2011 season.
Another challenge we faced this year was an invasion by ants in some of the Marina nests. Even with liberal use of neem cake, our volunteers had to be on guard round the clock in order to ensure we didn’t lose hatchlings to these carnivorous blind ants.
What was remarkable this season was the high percentage of hatching success in both the hatcheries and particularly in the Marina side where in spite of the ant invasion, 80% of the eggs hatched successfully. The Besant Nagar side was not too far behind with about 75% success.
Although the season was disappointing and discouraging to start with, the fact that we could still manage to release 10,367 hatchlings was a big shot in the arm for our volunteers.