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Larger turtle eggs unearthed in Dhanushkodi

Larger turtle eggs unearthed in Dhanushkodi

MADURAI: Relatively larger-sized turtle eggs found from a nest in Dhanushkodi coast on Monday kindled hopes of leatherback turtles nesting in Ramanathapuram coast. On Monday, a forest team found a turtle nest and unearthed 72 eggs and 30 smaller size eggs at Arichalmunai in Dhanushkodi.

The Gulf of Mannar biosphere is home of five species of marine turtles such as hawksbill, green turtle, Olive Ridley, leatherback and logger-head. These turtles nest on the beaches in Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts.

Olive Ridley is predominant species nesting in the area. But turtle eggs are poached by fishermen for food. Feral dogs too feast on eggs.

In order to conserve turtles, the forest department has formed turtle conservation teams in coastal districts taking out turtle watching patrols. Turtle watchers deployed to identify turtle nests and eggs are collected and protected in hatcheries till the hatchlings come out of eggs. The hatched turtles will be released in the sea.

In a whopping number this year, 13,000 turtle eggs were collected along Ramanathapuram coast and were safeguarded in hatchery at Mukuntharayarchathiram near Dhanushkodi. Out of them, 7,500 eggs have already hatched and the baby turtles were released in the sea. Rest of the eggs are supposed to hatch in this month or in June.

Last year, 2,500 eggs were collected and more than 2,000 eggs hatched, forest officials said. All these were Olive Ridley eggs.
The nest spotted on Monday created hope among forest officials because the depth of nest was 100cm deep against the usual nests dug by Olive Ridleys — 60cm in depth.

The eggs collected weighed around 200 grams against the usual weight of 70 grams of Olive Ridley eggs. « We are hopeful that it could be a nest of leatherback which is one of the largest marine turtle species in the world », said forest range officer, Mandapam Wildlife Range of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, S Sathish.
They collected over 102 eggs from the nest. But 30 of them were smaller without yolk and are unlikely to hatch. Seventy two were healthy eggs and all of them have been safeguarded in the hatchery.
« We have consulted turtle conservation volunteer organisations in Chennai, and they expressed their reservations saying nestling of leatherback is rare in Ramanathapuram coast. We will wait till the eggs hatch. If they turn out to be leather-back, it will be a record for us, » Sathish added.