CTC / SSTCN Turtle Walk Write-up by Vimal Prashanth

 

Vimal Prashanth here who become slightly active with CTC after being a member for 4+ years. Although i have done via corporate or office related social activities where CTC was driving in the front (like beach clean up). Now i have done some of my long term wishes along with CTC like growing our own saplings (Ainthinai) met Naa Bala there, Photo walk where i met Dinesh and Prasanna (my gurujee in photography), Infancia, Pramod and recently Trek with Raj Jacob, Prasanthi and Pankaj. Met many others who guided me in each and every event.
Now coming to my most recent one which i expected to do first but due to huge demand on schedules i was alloted for 20th March by Hema Mani. Its Turtle Walk, hurry.
With some assumptions based on common sense — may be i have little or more i dont know 🙂 you can judge!!! and reply one – one, not reply all please.
What i thought/assumed:
-Turtles and Tortoises were one and the same.
-Eggs of Turtles will break easily
-Eggs of Turtle will be eaten by dogs or humans will break it without knowing or sometimes purposefully
-Turtles wont be able to go more than few meters and other disturbances will risk their life etc
-Turtles will be taken by poachers as shown in papers (that’s for star tortoise though) and in Tamil movies i have seen
I went to hatchery at around 11pm by getting direction from SSTCN volunteer Mr Jason. Close to hatchery Mr Kumar local fisher man identified me and asked for my purpose of visit and guided to the hatchery area. Me and Jason after brief introduction planned to sleep in the awesome windy and nearshore hatchery until we start our walk by 3:00am. We started conversing and Jason gave lot of details and i was able to clarify about my above questions like
–Turtles are different from Tortoises
–Eggs of Turtles doesn’t break easily
–Turtle eggs will be laid half a meter inside but yes risk of dogs or any other living beings like rodents and crab.
–Important fact of Urbanisation which confuses Turtles to come towards city due to light instead of going towards the ocean
–Poachers are a big risk and there is a myth that Turtle egg cures piles so its been stolen and more surprising and interesting fact about where Turtles lay eggs and how in such a crowded Marina it happens and when it happens and the need for conserving these Olive Ridley Turtles etc.
Around 12:30 we bid good night and slept in the nice soft sand. I had spoken to Jason on what to bring so i had a blanket which i used to cover me as the night was windy and awesome with wave sounds. I was able to spot a shooting star as well 🙂
At 2:50am Jason woke me up and within a minute we were out of hatchery to do the exciting walk. Jason had given me clear expectation that its almost end of season so we may not find Turtles so i was prepared. I had informed him, not an issue i can come any number of times to see the Turtle and save the environment with what little i could.
The walk scheduled was from Hatchery till Napier bridge, the most exciting walk started before scheduled (before 3am). In about 500 meters Jason showed me a dead Turtle, he said this must have been pushed by ocean current sometime back (within 2-3 hours) and its highly impossible to find the cause of death as no marks at all. May be it died due to suffocation after getting stuck in nets or have eaten the abundant plastic that’s all over the Earth.
After some more walk, since Jason had told about the tracks, flippers i started pointing in curiosity and Jason was calmly looking at whatever i showed and explained like how those were not Turtles rather they were Human tracks, Animal (dog), rodent tracks etc. One point i showed hey see something definitely not human or animal/rodent. Then Jason looked around and said yes its Turtle and said common lets do the job. The area where turtle covered (forgot the term Jason told) was huge. Jason started doing his math and drawings and i helped him by showing light and informing where we haven’t marked etc. The area was spotted and segregated with horizontal and vertical lines so our search area becomes easy. Nice one by Jason, i was fascinated by that approach. Jason was in action with his Probe (hollow rod to check if there are nests) in each and every part we marked. He dug sand and told its Crab nest and then another one as Rodent nest. I told him to be careful as they might attack, he smiled and said they won’t rather they will be safeguarding themselves by moving somewhere else if at all his hands goes close to them. And then third area dug he saw me and i knew he found the eggs. Hurray!!!!! yeah it’s a Turtle nest and we were lucky that night/early morning and he said its unusually more deep and appreciated the Turtle for confusing any other predators by giving such a big area to search for.
Next we realised we didn’t take the bags for carrying eggs. So we prepared my bag which i took for carrying just a bottle of water, a blanket (good i kept the blanket in my scooter before the walk) and few other items of my cycle. We moved all into Jasons bag and prepared my bag to keep eggs. Jason start collecting eggs and i was surprised to see those. I took out some and started arranging and counting them in a side. They were soft they look exactly like Table Tennis balls. Total we got 124 eggs and we packed them with the Turtle mucus sand in my bag. Measured the Turtle nest and recorded them. With happy face we moved on and in just few meters another track. Jason said i don’t know how many more we will get but its a very lucky day, felt happy and again repeated the same strategy of marking and started digging. This time my intuition said a area and Jason said yes he too feels so and we dug that and yeah spot ON man, there were eggs.
Second nest had 92 eggs including one deformed (1/4th the size of usual ones). In general these 92 eggs were smaller when compared with the eggs from first nest. My bags second partition was used to pack the eggs, we measured and recorded. Then we had to change our plans a bit as we may get more eggs. Jason called SSTCN other member informed about this and he was given a tip that someone has seen a Turtle near light house so at least one more nest is there. Our plan was i walk back to hatchery, get Mr Kumar (fisherman) who also works for Hatchery to build nest and keep the eggs safe and bring some bags which we had left behind. Meantime Jason will walk further towards Light house and if he finds he will wait for me to come before eggs are taken out. It took 25+ mins to walk back, Kumar anna was waiting so he quickly dug nests and we transported the eggs into those. What a relief!!! I expressed Kumar anna my feeling of getting the eggs broken as i was carrying in shoulder bag. Although Jason advised nothing will happen i was little scared not to break any so walked back very slowly. Kumar anna laughed and said even if i drop the bag nothing will happen, he showed by dropping an egg and it was safe.
With happy face i took the vehicle parked near Hatchery, meantime Jason said that was a false track and Turtle didn’t lay eggs in the place where they got tip. He said he will walk further and asked me to come after light house and call. I did so and in sometime Jason and i finished the walk with no further nests/eggs. He added that if the marks were erased by Tractors moving around to pull the boats it’s highly impossible to identify where we can expect nests.
So yeah 2 nests, total 216 nests all safely transported and kept in hatchery. Happy Monday to start with.

Peter Van Geit
Life starts at the end of our comfort zone

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