DRDO masks mast light for turtles
Paradip: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has masked the high-power light from its Wheelers’ Island missile test range centre, which lies close to the turtles’ mass nesting ground, in an attempt to thwart any possible distraction to the endangered species.
The DRDO had earlier installed an ultra-laser beam lighting system for security and surveillance. However, they have responded to the state government’s high-powered committee’ request and decided to mask it to reduce the intensity of the light, said a forest official.
The Integrated Test Range in the Wheeler’s Island lies very close to the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 nesting grounds of the olive ridley turtles in Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. The high-power lights installed at the centre for its coastal security surveillance programme often disorients the delicate animals.
Divisional forest officer, Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division, Bimal Prasana Acharya said: « The department had called upon the defence installation authorities to look into the light distraction problem. The DRDO officials have responded positively. »
The high-powered illuminated ray installed at the strategic defence test range centre was a major distracting factor for turtles. While coming to the beach to lay eggs, the delicate species often got disoriented by the illuminated ray. Instead of heading towards the nesting ground, the turtles get distracted to move towards the test range centre. The soothing ambiance of this natural heritage was being adversely affected by high-powered light.
The Gahirmatha beach, which is the world’s largest known rookery of these species, has been playing host to lakhs of these endangered turtles.
The forest department has deployed two high-speed boats to patrol the marine waters of Gahirmatha sanctuary.
To ensure of safety of endangered sea turtles, 16 patrolling camps have been set up off the coast in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts. Of them, two are off-shore camps located at Babubali and Agarnashi which come under Kendrapara district.
The mute species, accorded as schedule-1 animal under wildlife protection act for its highly threatened status, get entangled in the nets for prolonged period and die of asphyxiation. The turtles also perish in large number after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the fishing trawlers.
During the last nesting season, 6.04 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had turned up for their annual sojourn for mass nesting. The female turtles had emerged from the sea to crawl on to the serene beach, dig pits to lay million of eggs.