Posts Tagged ‘Olive Ridley’
It is habitual for a resident of odisha to pick up any daily and put fleeting glances on reports of elephant’s electrocution or pachyderms dying on unmanned crossings hit by speeding trains. These stories have hit headlines with such intermittent regularity that they hardly attract any attention of layman anymore! So what happened last week in Kotpad was something brazen and tragic and invited lots of wrath of people as well as wildlife experts.
Wild bears killed eight villagers within a week causing panic among local people in the small town of Kotpad. The residents finally beat the ravaging animal to death. The incident widely reported in media engaged lots of wildlife experts as well as wildlife enthusiasts in heated discussion.
The news was instrumental in attracting attention to one of the most neglected subject on the face of rampant industrialization of odisha – The growing Man and Animal Conflicts. Of late the incidence of such conflicts has increased and includes animals such as elephants, leopards, bears and even Olive-Ridley Turtles! The very fact that such conflicts have increased in the recent years, calls for understanding the human-wild animal conflict with all its complexities and take a very sensible scientific and compassionate approach to resolve the issue.
To begin with let’s focus on some statistics! Reports from the Orissa Wildlife Organization suggest that during the 6 years period from (2004-05 to 2009-10) there was a total of 352 cases of human death, 132 cases of human injury, 3863 cases of house damage and 21768 acres of crop damage due to elephant depredation, and 75 human death cases and 671 human injury cases due to other animals like bear, crocodile, wild pig, wolf and gaur. On the contrary, 331 elephant death cases have been reported during the same period, which include 55 deaths due to poaching for ivory, 96 cases due to accidents (mostly electrocution), 49 natural deaths, 82 due to diseases and 49 for unknown reasons. The same statistics go on to establish the total number of elephant population in the state to be merely 1886. Similarly the population of other wild animals have touched alarmingly low proportions.
The statistics obviously tell the story they are meant to! The cases of man animal conflicts have been on rise and clearly the animals are on the receiving end. Competing with human beings for the same set of resources that once provided them with their sustenance is taking a toll on the animal population.
Human beings have started encroaching upon the area that once fed and bred these wild animals. Large chunks of forest land have been diverted for mining, establishment of industries, roads, railways, hydroelectric projects, irrigation projects and their canal systems. Linear projects like roads, canals and railways also act as mechanical barriers in the movement of wild animals from one place to another. The habitat of the animals is clearly stressed and as their “zones” get encroached upon by human beings they have two options – either learn to co-exist or resent. And in either cases, the brunt is borne by the animals.
Odisha can take cues from countries like Thailand and Myanmar if it is serious about reducing the ongoing strife between the animal and man kingdom. These countries endowed richly with forest and animal resources have built a viable social-economic model around them. These countries promote their tourism industry around elephants. And what is interesting is that the elephant population far from being threatened keeps on growing at a healthy pace there. The same is true for countries like Australia that boasts of Kangaroo and Malaysia that promotes orangutans!
In Odisha, we need to pro-actively find a solution to habitat related problems of the animal along with ways to save them. Forest officials need to stop deforestation and poaching on one hand while stop human intrusion into sanctuaries in order to address this problem. No doubt forest laws are in place in Odisha. But implementing them with strict supervision is what is needed at this hour!
Orissa has got a long coastline that is habitat to some of the world’s rarest or rare animals. Olive Ridley turtles, Irrawady dolphins and Horse Shoe Crabs are qute a few species of marine wildlife that are unique to Orissa only. However these creatures have of late been facing extinction owing to a number of reasons. And the most threatened of the aforementioned three creatures are the Horse Shoe crabs.
Horseshoe Crab, which was widely found along the coast of Orissa had existed long before the arrival of dinosaurs and till two decades ago, were found in large numbers along the coastal belt but now the species is confined to specific pockets like Eakakula beach, Balarampur, and Chandipur beaches of Balesore district and Hukitola areas of Kendrapada district,.
These marine creatures were once found aplenty in the Orissa Coast and were known by names like Laxmania Kankada, Samudra Bichha and Belangkar . Horseshoe Crab belongs to the Phylum Arthropoda, which includes insects, spiders, scorpions and crabs. Surprisingly, Horseshoe Crab is not actually a crab. In general, crabs have two pairs of antennae and a pair of mandibles of jaws, which are not present in Horseshoe Crab. It is closer to spiders and scorpions. Their main habitat consists of temperate and tropical seas . The coast of Orissa, especially the wetlands areas provide favorable living conditions and breeding grounds for Horseshoe crabs. These prefer to remain on the bottom sediments of the shallow sea. With high tide, male and female Horseshoe Crabs come ashore in large number for breeding. Nesting activity occurs during full moon and new moon days depending upon the lunar cycle. During this period countless breeding pairs are found along the coast of Orissa.
The crab is in high demand worldwide for its therapeutic values. These crabs are prized owing to their blue blood and find wide application in medical sciences in making drugs for diseases like mental exhaustion, arthritis and gastroenteritis. Local fishermen who have known these traits of the horse shoe crabs have hunted them in large numbers. It is not uncommon even to find children of these fishermen being used in the process of collecting these horse shoe crabs and smuggling them out to earn a prized income. In fact Smuggling of Horseshoe Crabs to foreign countries is rampant here, as they are in great demand by pharmaceutical companies for their medicinal value. It only helps that countries like Japan, Indonesia and America which were once home to these rare creatures have lost sizeable tracts of these creatures while still retain the market for medicinal products being prepared from these creature’s blood.
Orissa coast is now the only place in India which is the nesting place of these crabs. However rampant killing of these creatures have forced their population to dwindle sharply even here. It is time that the state take serious measures to ensure the killing and smuggling of horseshoe crab is prevented before the species becomes extinct. Though the central government has already taken steps in this direction by declaring the horse shoe crabs a n endangered species, serious efforts to conserve and breed the species is needed .
There are very few places on the planet where the Olive Ridleys come ashore for mass nesting. Orissa’s coastline is one of them. The Olive Ridley Turtles follow a well predicted cycle coming to the shore and lay eggs in mass in Rushikulya and Gahirmata. They then return to the sea. When the eggs hatch, the babies move towards the water by instinct. For less than a week, at the time the spot houses a spectacular sight with millions of hatchlings traveling towards the sea within an hour of their birth.
The phenomenon which is nature’s boon on Orissa has been going on since ever. But of late development activities along the coastline have started threatening these turtles and they find themselves displaced by development. The establishment of Dhamra port and other human activities around the shore has led to rising depletion of these turtles. Mechanized trawlers have been killing the adults for a while now; their shells washed ashore providing the gristly evidence. Litter, particularly plastic fishing nets that local, subsistence fishermen use, are also washed back on the beach. When the hatchlings walk across the beach, they are entrapped in these. Some die.
Conservation efforts have now been started by villagers living in and around the beach to restore the ecosystem. A costal community of Women Self Help group was recently felicitated by the Chief minister Mr Naveen patnaik for its efforts in saving the endangered turtles.
The members of Samudram Women’s Federation who have been carrying on the conservation work of the turtles for over five years however a different reason for protecting the species. The women of the coastal villages realized long back that protecting this species is key for the preservation of the coastal ecosystem, on which their livelihood depends. This is because turtles feed on jellyfish which are harmful to the fish population Conservation of turtles helps increase the population of fish. This helps the fishermen and fisherwomen increase their income as fish is their bread and butter.
The all female group of Samudram Women’s Federation carry on activities like planting mangroves, preserving beaches and breeding of the turtles. In their zeal to conserve the ecosystem, the members of the SHG have gone way beyond saving turtles. In fact their activities has led to the introduction of artificial reef in the coast which has tremendously increased the marine biodiversity. The Self Help Group has also led awareness campaigns on conservation of turtles and trained fishermen in turtle-friendly fishing methods and other sustainable fishing practices.
These and other efforts have helped restore the coastal ecosystem, which is now home to more than 130 species ranging from soft corals to starfish. Samudram’s success in bringing together the conservation of biodiversity and poverty reduction earned it the 2010 Equator Prize, a UNDP initiative aimed at awarding “outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.”
Samudaram, which started off in 1993 with 15 women’s organizations, today brings together over 229 women self-help groups and includes more than 3000 women. The efforts of Samudram are really commendable and works best as an example for other communities which can also stand up for their own cause.