Beach cleanup, Turtle walk – Feb 8, 2009

25 people (20 CTC members and some of their friends) meet at the Madras Crocodile Bank, ECR for some educational/awareness program on turtle conservation, wildlife spotting, beach cleaning, GPS mapping and full moon drooling activities.  We were supposed to meet at 2:30 PM but due to traffic and delays, we could finally meet an hour later.

“Save the Olive Ridley Turtle”

We were welcomed by Soham Mukherji, Asst. Curator – Madras Crocodile Bank, and given a short introduction about the MCBT (Madras Crocodile Bank Trust), their role and the research activity they’re into.  A video session followed where Shekar Dattatri’s 45 minutes film on Olive Ridley was screened: “The Ridley’s Last Stand”. It was sad to watch and was a real eye opener.
CTC_members_holding_the_baby_croc_5 The Olive Ridley population and nesting activity is dwindling by the day mainly because of the following:
1. Fishing Nets: Trawler activities are banned 5 km within the shore and yet they continue to kill animals (turtles) and humans (remember 26/11 ?). There’s a special net wherein the turtles can escape leaving only the other marine animals to be trapped. This is provided free of cost but still fishermen don’t use it.
2. Lighting around the beach: The young hatchlings are extremely sensitive to light. They’re guided to sea by the light from the sea (moon light). Any stray light from beachfront residences, highways, etc. with mislead the young ones which may get eaten by dogs, birds or die as they should get into the sea within 24 hours.
3. Casuarina Plantations: Any other vegetation other than the natural grown ones is fetal. We plant this casuarina right on the shore but this robs the turtles of nesting grounds. Also the young turtles get caught in the plantations and die.
4. Garbages: This is a no brainer. The young ones might eat the plastic or the female can’t find suitable nesting place. Please keep our beaches clean and don’t litter.
Out of the hundreds of egg laid, less than 10-15% of them actually survive the first week of their life. Turtle nesting is an amazing phenomenon. The female travel hundreds of miles to come to the shore and lay eggs. The hatchlings, if survived, will probably come to the same place where it was born to lay eggs!
Now is the time to correct our mistakes and save the turtles.
Nikhil Whitaker, Curator – Madras Crocodile Bank, give us a presentation on how to use GPS handheld and map sites.
Around the Madras Crocodile Bank
DSC_4629 Post the video session, we took a tour around the park with the MCBT volunteers. The MCBT people were in good humour and were giving commentary about various things and we got to know a lot of stuff about reptiles. Pramod gave us 5 minutes (but we extended to 10 minutes) to visit the IRULA center. We were given a crash course about snakes. We saw 4 poisonous snakes found in Tamil Nadu (Krait, Cobra, Russell’s Viper and Saw-scaled Viper) and saw irulas extracting venom. There was this one snake which looks like it’s a baby but it was 10 years old and it gives us only 2-3 hours incase of a bite! Myths was dispelled such as snakes doesn’t eat egg or milk but small animals. They bite as the last resort to protect itself. They try to escape if threatened. Don’t panic in a case of snake bite. Some snake bite just give you 4 hours to receive medical care. Panicking will give you half the time. I’ve always wanted to pose with a croc in my hand and this wish was fulfilled. Crocs are totally cool creatures and their scales are soft and it will seem as if holding a plastic toy. A small crocodile was our specimen to see it up close and hold it. Some 8-10 brave CTCians achieved this feat of holding it. All is fine until the baby fella wriggles which means we have to switch hands! Crocodile Bank is a must visit place. They have hundreds of crocodiles, snakes and other reptiles which just seem to lie idle all day until it’s food or mating time!
Beach cleaning and Casuarina mapping activities
DSC_4706 After a brief talk from Soham about the DOs and DONTs we set off south of the crocodile bank to clear the garbage and plastics.  Soham and a MCBT volunteer were mapping Casurina plantations with a GPS handheld. We mapped the clusters using ‘polygon’ feature and smaller plantations with ‘waypoints’. The waypoints were marked and later would be transferred to PC to facilitate further research. We were totally surprised to find the crap that we wouldn’t have imagined to find in a beach. Some samples: Ariel washing power cover, kitchen spatula, a women’s footwear, tooth brush, Jet Airways’ security tag besides the usual suspects of plastics, water bottles, alcohol bottles, chocolate wrappers and cigarette packet.  We filled up nearly 25-30 bags of garbage. Note that this is a lonely beach with not a soul in sight, we walked just for 3/4th of a kilometer and we didn’t scout to interior places. I’m sure we would need 2-3 trucks to pick the garbages of the popular Marina and Elliots beach! After a 775m walk, we decided to shut stop the walk as it was getting dark. We then had refreshments, fooled around in the beach water and took group photos.
vote_of_thanks_to_our_organisers The entire 1.5 Km walk was total fun though the “rag picker” job would seem boring and monotonous. We took loads of photos with “sovereigns” (skeletons of animals, shells, and other interesting objects), fighting for space (“This is our area. Only we’ll pick rags here. Keep off!”), exchanged reviews about the recently released movies: ‘Naan Kadavul’ and ‘Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu’,  gave a crash course on photography, and made new friends.  The walk was punctuated by beautiful sights on both sides. On our right hand side, the sun was setting. When it got dark, the full moon’s light was reflected on the sea. Perhaps the most beautiful, romantic sight!  A sight to behold.  On the way back, we got split into 2 groups (why this happened is a mystery). The others got to see glowing crocodile’s eyes in the dark (the thing to watch out for during night safari).
It was a totally rocking afternoon-evening-night! A big thanks to Pramod, MCBT and CTC for this wonderful opportunity.

Written by: Ashwin
Organized by: Pramod
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Posted by: Karthick Sundararajan

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