Today is World Sea Turtle Day and BaiManus Media House has released a special video to mark this occasion. I am grateful to Prashant Pawar, Editor of BaiManus, for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts through this video, and to Team BaiManus for this excellent edit!
Watch this video here:
The video is in Marathi and I append below a transcript in English:
Oceans cover around 70% of the earth’s surface, and sea turtles play an important role in maintain the well-being of the oceans. Just as the tiger is a critical species in the conservation of forests, sea turtles are important for conservation of oceanic ecosystems. Sea turtles, as a keystone species, are an important constituent of their environment with a great influence on other species around them. If a keystone species is removed from its habitat, it may cause an imbalance in the ecosystem in a way which has a severely detrimental impact on the dependent flora and fauna.
There are seven species of sea turtles in the world – Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Flatback, Green Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley and Olive Ridley. Many species of sea turtle are highly migratory, travelling hundreds of miles in search of foraging and nesting grounds. Every year turtles return to the exact spot where they were born to mate and lay their own eggs. On the Eastern Coast of India, Gahirmatha beach in Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles. Since many years female Olive Ridley turtles have been arriving at a cluster of beaches in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra on the Western Coast of India to lay eggs in the breeding season from January to April – the Velas beach being the most famous site which conducts an annual turtle festival to celebrate the nesting. Conservationists in India have been working hard at trying to understand the exact migratory route of these turtles, study their habits and gather other valuable data.
Sea turtles feed on seagrass and their grazing helps maintain a healthy ocean bed which grows across the ocean floor rather than as long blades. Without their grazing, seagrass may become overgrown and obstruct currents. Sea turtles feed on sponges which keeps the fast-growing sponges at bay giving slower growing corals a chance to grow. Coral reefs are an important source of food as well as shelter for many oceanic creatures. They protect the coastline from strong oceanic currents and waves. Coral reefs also have an impact on carbon dioxide levels in the ocean. Some species of sea turtles feast on jelly fish which prey upon fish eggs and larvae, thus helping save the population of several vulnerable fish species.
Today the sea turtles are threatened by human activities. The main threats which affect sea turtles are global warming and climate change, habitat loss and ecological degradation, oceanic pollution such as plastic and toxic waste, illegal trade, hunting for meat and eggs, and getting trapped in fishermen’s nets. In order to focus on conservation of these species we need a better understanding of their lives, movement and habitat.
Projects are already underway in Odisha where about 60 Olive Ridley turtles have been tagged with satellite transmitters in order to study their movement. In Maharashtra too, 5 Oliver Ridley turtles have been recently tagged and the resultant data actively collated and studied. Conservationists are hopeful that these “Turtles with Antennae” will give us much needed insight into their secret lives thus aiding us in our efforts at conservation of the sea turtles.
– Narendra Nayak © 2022