Human elephant Conflict in India

Human elephant Conflict in India
-Susan Sharma

Communities living in the proximity of elephant landscapes face daily challenges in terms of protecting their crops from elephants. Elephants find agricultural crops irresistible. No wonder that farmers find it difficult to keep elephants away from their crop fields. To cope with this problem farmers, elephant scientists, and wildlife managers in Asia and Africa, have come up with a variety of techniques to keep the giant at bay. These solutions range from simple common-sense solutions to those using advanced technology.   The last two chapters are devoted to more general elephant management issues. We hope this book makes it easier for people and elephants to live together in the same landscape.

-Quote from WRCS website

Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) have produced a detailed booklet on how to deal with human elephant conflict in India. This book describes, in simple terms, a wide range of techniques and solutions that people have come up with, to protect agricultural crops from elephants. Each section describes one technique.
WRCS have also pointed out the pros and cons of each technique, so that you can make an informed decision on which one you should use.

They have now uploaded the digital version of the Crop Protection Book on their website. Click on the link below so that they can send you a pdf version of the book.

In the wake of increasing retaliatory killings of elephants, we hope that this book can provide an educated and informed options to farmers and Forest Department. We can't afford to lose any more lives - of people and elephants.

WRCS(Wildlife Research and Conservation Society) has been working in the field of human elephant conflict for many years. has collaborated with WRCS online over the years too. Please read about our collaboration in the "Gajanana Campaign"at the link below.

We also made a short film on the human elephant conflict, where Shaleen Attre, a young conservationist talks about this conflict

Please watch and write your comments on the You Tube channel so that we can have a meaningful conversation on the issue.

Bird Watching



-Mrs Shakti Bishnoi and  Mr A S Bishnoi

The nip in the air signalled the onset of winter in the city and the season along with its chills, has also brought in a few winged visitors from distant lands. Come winter, Visakhapatnam and surrounding districts become home to a number of migratory birds. Not only local birds but migratory birds from far off places are regularly visiting this place, which is just adjacent to Visakhapatnam airport wall. With many species , the place is ideal site not only for casual visitors, but also for the avid bird watchers and professional ornithologist. The various winged beauties can be seen wading through the marshes behind the airport, snacking on small insects and crustaceans. Surrounding districts during winter are filled with chirps of a motley crew of migratory birds who have flown countries in the northern hemisphere to make vizag their home for the next few months. Following water bodies support these avian worlds:-
(a) Kaplapadu
(b)Kondakarla ava, 
(d)Airport canal
(e)Megadripeta dam

Clearance, conversion and degradation of natural habitat, grasslands, and wetlands are by far the most important causes of avifauna endangerment in the Asian region, affecting all species classified as critical, endangered and vulnerable. Exploitation of the land is the most common threat. The main pressure on Asian water birds is wetland drainage and conversion into intertidal coastal wetland. 

Black winged stilt

Defying all the parameters for survival, the bird community consisting of migratory birds namely Pied Avocet, Rudy shelduck, Sand piper,  large egret, median egret, cattle egret, Indian pond heron, Water cock, wader family including sand piper, common sandpiper, Black tailed Godwit and Stints , Jacana, oriental white ibis etc. list is long to mention, visit this small place. These species are regular visitor to this highly isolated and encroached place near the airport during Oct- Mar. While these winter vistors fly down to escape the harsh weather of their natural habitat, they are not completely safe here either. Apart from the predators like, civet cats, Dogs , humans too hunt them for different purpose

Cormorant, avocet and stilt

Our encounter with these migratory birds at Visakhapatnam
When we came to Visakhapatnam in 2011, to my current abode NAD colony, in Visakhapatnam near to the Airport which is surrounded by green hills of Simhachalma we were aghast as there was no sign of avain wealth. All we used to  witness was a countryside trembling with countless butterflies near to my house.Ofcourse, there were the garrulous mynas and rowdy crows of the garden variety. Then one fine day, when I saw first migratory bird (Brahminy duck) in Visakhapatnam near airport, as I was only my way to market via, the excitement grew to know more to see them at close. The world of bird migration is ancient and fascinating. And peep into it is engrossing. A small canal behind the Airport Point is supporting this avian world and is the meeting place for migratory birds in Vizag.
The photographer
So within the city and near the airport are bit not acceptable words. Avian world and Aviation both pose serious threat to each other. Aviation is facing great nuisance from birds since the first time men got airborne. Birds are a serious hazard to aviation. Airports provide a wide variety of natural and man-made habitats that offer food , water and cover or some airports are located along migratory routes used by birds. The other side of the runway is industrial belt consisting of HPCL, BPL , Andhra Refineries. Therefore in the sepulchral silence of canal and hustle bustle of aircrafts landing and taking off, the heaven for birdwatchers exists. What made me to undertake study was various reasons. The most important are enumerated below:-

(a)Birds require relatively large amount of food, and most airport support in  abundance viz., seeds, berries, grass , insects so is this airport
(b)Birds are drawn to open water for drinking, bathing, feeding, loafing, roosting and protection. 
(c)Rainy periods provide temporary water pools at many places and due to frequent cyclone ,Visakhapatnam receives more rains. 
(d)Permanent water body near the airport
(e)Birds needs cover for resting, loafing, roosting and nesting, Trees, brushy areas, weed patches, shrubs provide suitable habitat to meet these requirements

Rudy shelducks
Like many other airport, Visakhapatnam airport meets all the above requirement which proves to be detrimental for all the aircrafts landing and taking off. But till date not a single incident of bird strike has been reported. Surprisingly, with so many activities of migratory birds, there is no bird menace. The reasons after study has revealed that the flight path for landing and taking off is opposite to the canal where these birds feed and as such abundant food, water, nesting place is available there can be no reason that they come in flight path. Therefore their existence is mutual understanding. 

After a gap of one month in 2011, I started collating the data on the species. It became a regular feature early morning al-teast two hours with a notepad and binoculars to study their behaviour and count them. These species have made this small patch as their habitat and they are surviving amidst industrial waste, polluted water, polluted air, honking and moving vehicles noises. If that is not enough fisherman claiming their share from the confined area. This place is apt for their survival as there is availability of sea water, weeds, ample food(sea food i.e toad, fish etc), reeds, solitary confinement of place etc. These birds are rare sightings in Vizag. People go all the way to Chilka lake for their sightings. The best time to spot them is Oct- Mar(every year). End March they start their migration phase back to their habitat like, Sibera, northern European nations enroute Chilika and other water bodies in Andhra Pradesh.

White Ibis
The opening through which sea water enters the paradise for this community of birds is more or less blocked. If all above  was not enough construction of two Giant size roads on both sides of water body makes all the more worse for these near threatened birds survival more difficult. The cause of concern is, very conveniently the road authorities have dragged sand from both sides to surmount for road making and creating lesser space for their survival. Still they are coming every year but lesser than expected.

Migratory birds are sensitive to pollution. Dwindling number of the birds  is attributed to a dumping of effluents and human activities near the airport which has increased over the last 3 years. Poaching is rare but it does happen at the feeding ground.  The reasons for increase and decrease in population is due to Visakhapatnam  becoming the epicentre of cyclonic activities and uncertain weather conditions.

(a)2011 good rainfall  800mm
(b)2012 moderate 600 mm
(c)2013 very heavy rainfall 1000mm ( due to three cyclones)
Cyclone in other way support their survival by making available more water and food for them for longer period. Megadhripeta Dam is the source of water. Water discharging being undertaken at the regular interval helps them to survive and extend their stay.  Compared to 2012 , this year 2013, some species have arrived earlier and in more numbers. May be some species would have preferred  break/halt during transit from Chilika , Teelineelapuram/Teliguchi  on the way to Kolleru lake(Kolleru lake is meeting place of more than 10,000 migratory birds).  On their return journey from Kolleru, Point Calimere, Pulicat Lake, they may be taking a enroute halt before their journey to CHilika lake (Mar-Apr) in their return journey.

Populations of Moorhen was found to be dwindling due to construction of road near the airport and other channel created to prevent flood like situation if it rains. As this very airport got flooded in 2005, 2010. With road activities and food shortage, and poaching, the population has come down.  

The outlook of area is such that no one would bother to even slide down their window glass of car, because in a second, gush of   pollutants enters your nostrils as large lorrey, trucks carrying cargo load enter the HPCL /BPL refinery etc. How much more do we want to have comfort. Do we own the universe, earth, moon, and landmass? We keep cutting forest and create dream homes without thinking where the residents of the place go, namely animals and birds.
Migratory birds coming to our country and surprising places like this place in Vizag, imparts a very sensitive message that god is still hopeful and full of grace to show such wonderful creations. 


Average figure2011  (Sep 11-Mar 12)

Average figure2012 (Sep12-Mar13)

Average figure2013  (Sep13 –Dec 14)

S No                       Species                              2011               2012                2013

1                        Brahminy duck                             200             150                      250
2                        Black winged stint                         200             170                      300
3                        Asian open bill                                 10               25                      80
4                        Painted stork                                   50          30               100
6                        Pied Avocet                                     50        10           5
7                        Oriental white ibis                            20         5         10
8                        Jacanas                                           40         20       10
9                        Pintail                                              50         40         70
10                        Moorhen                                        200        130         150
11                        Little cormorant                                 5                2                     10
12                        Little egret                                       50        30        60
13                        Purple heron                                      4         7         10
14                        Grey heron                                        2         4         2
15                        Large egret                                   1030             80
16                        Cattle egret                                   4030         100
17                        Pond heron                                    3050         40
18                        Asain openbill                                2510         50
19                        Cotton teal                                        34        ----
20                        Gadwal                                             35        -----
21                        Northern shoveller                           105        ----
22                        Bronze winged Jacana     2015         20
23                        Purple moorhen                      10080         30


Status of Vultures, Nature's scavengers -in India

Status of Vultures, Nature's scavengers -in India 
-Susan Sharma

Globally there are 23 species of vultures and condors.  Over half of them are in red list of IUCN.  In South Asia we have 9 species and all of those 9 are found in India. 

The California Condor is critically endangered, so is the Andean Condor.  Generally other vultures in the new world are less threatened.  More recently African vultures have also suffered a decline.  Reason is poisoning by poachers.  Vultures show up on dead animals and alert forest officials to poached animals.  So there is an effort by poachers to eliminate vultures by poisoning them. 

The situation in India, however,is unique.  There is no dearth of food, no poaching then why?

White rumped Vultures, once abundant in millions,  showed 99.9% decline since 1991 in India causing alarm bells to ring. 

A team of doctors in Pakistan detected that veterinary medicine diclofenac was the killer and this was confirmed by Indian doctors. Diclofenac was found to be the main cause for decline.  While  relatively  safe for cattle and humans, it is lethal for vultures who get gout and kidney failure after eating cattle treated with diclofenac.
Chris Bowden of RSPB(Royal Society for Protection of Birds), London has been working out of Bangalore since 2004 to save the vultures from the brink of extinction.  Though dicloflenac was banned by all Asian countries in  2006 vultures still die of dicoflenac poisoning.  Why?

Three years ago an exercise done to review status of vultures in Asia.  Most predominant threat in South Asia is that of dicloflenac group of medicines used to treat cattle.   

Endemic vultures in India are, white rumped, long billed, slender billed (found in Assam and North East India), Red headed vulture, Egyptian vulture (endangered but wide distribution) Himalayan Griffon and  Eurasian Griffon   Eurasian vultures are not breeding in India but their numbers are decreasing. 

Jatayu story from Ramayana gives cultural importance to vultures.  Other cultural significance is the sky burial of Parsis in the tower of silence.  Up in the Himalayas , the Himalayan griffon vulture also does the same service for some hill communities.  
Role of vultures in eco system cannot be overemphasized.   Twenty years ago all rotting meat was disposed off by vultures.  Feral dogs have now taken their place to the extent of 30%.  
BNHS counted vultures from 1992-2015, on a  7000km length by road transects. This long term graph shows the population is stabilizing.  

The alternative to diclofenac,  meloxicam was found to be too expensive by Indian animal farmers.  Once diclofenac was out of patent, Pharmaceutical companies started manufacturing diclofenac under different names and farmers continued to use these.  A massive outreach to create awareness was the only solution.  

Meanwhile the breeding program for vultures initiated by RSPB and BNHS took off and currently about 60 chicks per year are produced in India at various facilities.  These are being released into the wild to augment numbers.   
Nepal vulture population is recovering.  In India Releasing and tracking birds going on.   During Covid lock down, the released birds are now travelling wide,  more than  5 to 6 km  as earlier observed.

The efforts to get diclofenac out of the system is still continuing.  While the alternative Meloxicam is now made cheaper, Chris Bowden says another problem has cropped up in it actually being used.  Meloxicam is also now out f patent and many local companies are now manufacturing it.  But some of the meloxicam vials available cause a painful injection to the animal so, vets have started going back to other variants of diclolenac!!

In short the war against diclofenac for cattle use continues. The Indian Veterinary Research Institute is yet to look into this practical problem.  The organization "SAVE" is putting its might behind the issue.  

SAVE stands for Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction and it is a consortium of like-minded, regional and international organisations and has been created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning and fundraising activities to help the plight of south Asia's vultures.

"SAVE" has generated one more initiative- vulture safe zones. Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) are zones where there is a very low risk of  poisoning in the areas surrounding remaining breeding colonies. These sites will be vitally important, not just for the numbers they retain within a natural system, but because they are also likely to be utilised as some of the first release sites for captive reared birds.

Feeding stations for vultures are a tourist attraction in many places.  These can be helpful for sensitizing communities but not at the cost of diverting funds from the Forest Department, especially since food shortage is not a problem in India, feels Chris Bowden.

Populations will never go back to 1980 levels But five to ten years of stable population In India is possible, says Chris in a webinar organized by Delhi Bird Foundation. 

(The article has been written with inputs from a webinar by Chris Bowden From RSPB.  The entire webinar can seen at the following link )

Did You Know ?

Changing colours in the dark

Changing colours in the dark
The phases of the moon affect the success of birds that hunt at night.
How species that hunt for prey during the night evolve and adapt to variations in moonlight has been an open question.  Animals have evolved to emerge in dim light, for the advantage of concealment, and others that prey on them,  have developed the ability to spot animals in the dark. But has the illumination during the night influenced the colours and plumage of nocturnal species?
Luis M. San-Jose , Robin Séchaud, Kim Schalcher, Clarisse Judes, Anastasia Questiaux,
Aymeric Oliveira-Xavier, Charlène Gémard, Bettina Almasi, Paul Béziers, Almut Kelber, Arjun Amar and Alexandre Roulin, from the University of Lausanne,  the Ornithological Institute, Sempach,
Switzerland, Lund University, Sweden and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, describe in the journal, Nature- Ecology and Evolution, their study of how the plumage affects the fitness of the white and brown barn-owls, over the course of the lunar month.

Most of the studies, so far, that seek connections between levels of light and the colouration of animals, the authors say, have been of animals that are active in the day-time, “and the consequences of variation in nocturnal light on the evolution of animal colouration are barely known”.  The authors make reference to an 1897 paper, Nocturnal Protective Coloration of Mammals, Birds, Fishes, Insects, etc., by A. E. Verrill,  in the journal, The American Naturalist, which says, “very little attention has been paid to their protective colors as seen by moonlight, twilight, and starlight, when large numbers of species of small mammals and fishes, and numerous insects are most active in search of food and most of the large carnivorous and insectivorous species are abroad in search of their prey. Moreover most birds and many fishes and insects sleep in exposed situations and are thus subject to the attacks of nocturnal predaceous species. The latter, in turn, need protective colors for the night-time, in order to avoid the notice of their prey. One of the most evident effects of moonlight or starlight is to give very black shadows. In the case of bright moonlight these black shadows of trees, etc., may be broken up by patches of white moonlight. Therefore, black or dark-brown animals are nearly invisible in such shadows. If black animals have patches of white or light yellow these will serve a useful purpose by breaking up and obscuring the outlines of bird or beast and look like patches of moonlight on a shadow.”

While studies of nocturnal animals have been less frequent, the authors say that recent work has suggested that animal colouration is related to the variation of light during the night. Apart from instances of animals actively changing colours at nightfall, the authors say that owls with feathers of different colours are seen more often in places where there tend to be variations in light levels.  Variation of light levels could hence be a factor that influences genetic selection in owls, but this has not been studied in a formal way, the paper says.

The authors, used twenty years of data of a population of barn owls that breed with feathers in the chest and belly ranging from white to dark red. Unlike A. E. Verrill, a century ago, the present study could mark individual birds and follow their movements the help of GPS, and use infra red cameras to observe their behavior.  The study hence recorded foraging behaviour, as well as success and timing of breeding, in a 1070 square km area in western Switzerland, using 360 nest boxes, since the year 1991.  

To investigate how the colouration of the owls affected their performance in foraging, the focus of experiments was turned to the response of the common vole (Microtus Arvalis), a rodent found in Europe, to owls of different colours, in different moonlight conditions.
In principle, owls should be more efficient in their predation in bright moonlight and the phase of the moon should affect hunting efficiency. And this would affect the success and timing of breeding. At the same time, brighter moonlight would make the owls more conspicuous to the rodents. The hunting efficiency of the owls should hence drop during full moon nights. Although rodents do not have full colour vision, the brown-red owls would be a little less visible than the white bellied owls. The brown-red owls should hence experience less of the predation-limiting effect of moonlight than white bellied owls. And the difference should narrow during the new moon nights, when the contrast is less apparent. 


The results of the trials were that the average hunting success was 4.78 prey per night and was significantly affected by the level of moonlight, and differently, according to the colour of the owl plumage. In the case of the reddest parents, the food provisioning fell from 5.67 prey per night, during the new moon, to 3.27 prey per night, at the time of the full moon. The drop, however, was not as much in the case of white owls, dropping from 4.94 to 4.61 prey per night, between the new moon and the full moon.

To investigate these differing effects of the level of moonlight on hunting success and food provisioning by red or white owls, the experiment shifted to the reaction of the vole, the staple prey of the owls being studied, to the sight of red and white owls. The study was in laboratory conditions, with voles that had become acclimatized to the experimental pen. And the study consisted of exposing the voles to models of the differently coloured owls, and with artificial light conditions that mimicked new moon and full moon nights. 

The response of the vole, on sighting the predator, was to flee, of course, but the first response was to freeze. This is a reaction of nocturnal animals, which shun bright light, that hunters who went on safaris regularly made use of. They would course through the jungle, and when they spotted an animal, they would shine a floodlight. The animal would freeze, for many seconds, long enough for the shikaris to take aim and shoot.

Similarly, the first response of the vole, on spotting the owl, is to freeze. The trials showed that the vole stayed frozen for 9.5 seconds, on the average. But there was great difference between red or white owls and in full or new moon conditions. During the full moon, the voles froze 5.6 seconds longer before a white owl than a red owl. And if the times between the full and new moons were compared, the difference was 9.6 seconds.

We can imagine that startling a vole with a bright image is a great advantage to the predator even if being white and visible declares the predator’s presence much before one with muted colours. 

While this finding indicates that the owl’s plumage is a driver for genetic selection, the group also looked for adaptation of timing of egg laying and the arrival of fledglings.  It was found that owls that mated with a male white owl were more likely to lay the first egg when the moon was at least 50% illuminated. Females that mated with red males, however, were more likely to lay the first egg before the moon was 50% illuminated.

The timing has to do with the phases of the moon and the prospects of ample food provisioning during the time of growth of fledglings. In the case of red feathered fathers, it was the chicks that were born in the first few days that had the best chance of survival and growth. But white feathered fathers were successful hunters throughout the lunar month and there was no difference.
[the writer can be contacted at]


Sunderbans Wetlands

Cruising in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, before COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan struck!

IndianWildlife Club You Tube channel has recently uploaded a series of videos on the Sunderbans wetlands in West Bengal. Four of us in our team consider that we were lucky to do this cruise in February 2020.

Here are the links which you can click to watch them.

Sunderbans - Cyclone Amphan has passed, A video Essay by IndianWildlifeClub

Sunderbans Cruise -Day 1 with Team IndianWildlifeClub

Sundarbans Cruise - Day 2 in West Bengal's World Heritage Wetland Site

Wildlife of Sunderban Wetlands, West Bengal - Cruise Day 3



-Mrs Shakti Bishnoi, Mr A S Bishnoi, Ms Priyadarshini Devi
Every Year in the quaint seaside village of Orissa turtles throng the coasts of Odisha each year in huge number at three major locations namely, islands of Gahirmatha, Rushikulya and Devi River mouth and other parts of Maharashtra, Tamil Naidu and Andhra Pradesh, to lay eggs and thousand of baby Olive Ridleys celebrate their journey to the sea after hatching. The mere presence of the turtles along the Indian Ocean suggests that there is a conducive environment being offered and suitable habitat for these wonderful creatures ( that I shall support with facts) and let us continue so these guest visit us again and again. We shall narrate our experience of in succeeding paras. 

Our Experience 
We had read about them and seen photos/ articles  in magazines but the urge to see them in person was always back of our mind. As rightly said, you have to dream to convert into reality. So our dream came true. I was informed by forest official(a friend of mine) that mass nesting sites are inundated with Olive Ridley and kindly reach immediately. I spoke to my wife and it was 2000Hrs in Balasore. We packed our bag and told our daughter that we are going to see the unbelievable creation of God. She packed her small bag and we headed toward Rusikulya/Gahirmatha within half hour. It takes 3-4 hours to reach. But our car made sure that we reach early not to miss any event. We often converse with car and she responds positively. Finally we reached  site at 2300 Hrs and our forest official  friend was waiting for us. He was surprised with our immediate/flash and prompt action to his call. The day was exhilarating experience to be the part of a mass nesting. 
These turtles migrate several hundred Kms in the sea waters to finally congregate at nesting sites (Gahirmatha, Rusikulya etc.) which is a unique feature with the Ridlyes, both Olives and Kemp’s Ridley. This phenomenon of nesting is called “Arribada”.  
Life Cycle :-Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys Olivacea)
We witnessed mating and wanted to see the next natural action, and our dream came true as we were opportune to witness mass nesting. To our surprise my daughter was looking for that particular female who mated..but all were same. So she gave up. 

 Olive Ridleys, Lepidochelys Olivacea,  are the smallest of all other turtles like their close kin the Kemp’s Ridley turtle. They owe their name to the colour of the carapace and skin which is grey to green over various periods of life. Found in the warm tropical waters of Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the turtles have been the most abundantly found sea turtle. Olive Ridley sea turtles,  though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognised as Vulnerable by the International Union for conservation of Nature(IUCN) Red list. These turtles, along with their cousin, the Kemp’s Ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called “Arribada”, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.  Olive Ridley sea turtles is endemic to Odisha coast as the world’s largest rookery is in Gahirmatha and official figures indicates that 90% of the population of sea turtles along the Indian coastline comes to the Odisha coast for nesting. The other nesting sites in Bay  of Bengal is (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Naidu etc but scattered) but occasional and smaller number.  In the Indian Ocean they are seen in the Coromandel coast, Velsa (konkan belt) and Sri Lanka. The other congregations for nesting in world are found at Mexico and Costa Rica. However they are becoming endangered slowly due to loss of suitable breeding or nesting grounds all over.
As the mating occurs in the sea waters,  the males retreat to the foraging ground post mating.  The females linger around looking for  shallow waters over a month(general figure is 45 days) till they reach the beaches to lay their eggs. As per forest official, nesting seasons in India last from around Jan-Mar depending upon the conducive and favourable conditions prevailing at that point of time. The females lay around 100- 150 eggs per individual. Each female takes around 30 minutes to an hour to dig a hole around 2-3 feet  with its flippers and lay her eggs. 
Eggs Laying (Arribada)
 So we reached in the night and the process had already begun, the approx congregation was 9000 as per forest official. It was pitch dark and silence of night was occasionally broken by roaring sea waves, dogs barking and soft intermittent noises of digging, other beating the covered nests with the plastron. On moving ahead we could see the female turtles approaching steadily towards the sandy beach with a hope to dig their nests and lay eggs. My daughter saw the unique phenomena and she wanted to observe closely, so we used our torch to make her see.
 We planned to visit next day in day light as few turtle visit during day times also so that we can appreciate much better. We went back to Bhuneshwar for a rest so that we reach fresh in the morning to witness.   To our surprise, we could see few enthusiastic turtle laying eggs. We were ecstatic and walked near a turtle to see the entire phenomena, it was as if the moment was played again but in day light. We walked with careful  footsteps and sat near a turtle. We were over whelmed to find that the one turtle in front of us started to dig the earth indicating that she will lay eggs here in front of us. We could see that forest department staffs posted and NGOs were  sincerely performing their duties, not allowing any tourist to disturb their habitat, chasing dogs and ensuring, that foreign guests(Olive Ridley) are safe and have peaceful nesting. Few post completion of their duty of laying eggs started proceeding towards sea, never to return again till next season. Their movement seems to be slow as eggs laying is exhaustive process. There were little clashes for space and few nests were dug out by other females accidentally due to shortage of space. But this is how nature balances.

The female turtle laid eggs  and covered nest with the plastron in aprox 45 min(we monitored). Turtle started moving towards sea and we followed her. She was exhausted and my daughter prayed god to give her energy so that she reaches to sea safe and sound.  She followed her till sea and once she entered, she heaved sigh of relief and started looking for other turtles. Likewise, we saw four turtle life cycle of eggs laying and since it was afternoon laced with deadly combination of humidity and temperature soaring above 36 degree, we headed towards shade of tree and had lunch underneath tree. We waited for the sun to reduce temperature.  
Interacting with forest official we came to know that compared to previous years where there have been instances of no nesting at all due to various reasons like change in temperature, cyclonic disturbances, salinity, oil spillage etc, this year has been heartening and we were more than excited to have our foreign guests (Olive Ridley) in Orissa with definitely encouraging numbers. We could also spot one tagged turtle and forest official were ecstatic as she revisited the same place to lay eggs. 
Since I was not so satisfied, I wanted to see more of such congregation, we decided to stay one more day to revisit site in wee hours to have their closer glimpse. I reached at 0300 and to my surprise, there was hardly any space to walk even with measured and careful footsteps. I used my flash to click as many photos I could and waited for the first light of sunlight to have a a closer look. I saw huge congregation and one most important and noticeable aspect was hard work of forest department staffs was clearly visible and so was their sincerity. Even NGOs  were actively involved and working day in and day out during the season of nesting till hatchlings move safely in to the sea. The local villagers has been instrumental in discouraging poaching and trade of products like eggs, meat, carapace etc to a huge extent. The young children also participate in saving the turtles babies from being predated by the numerous predators like the crows, dogs, jackals, hyenas, wild boars, raptors etc. Inspite of vigilance during laying of eggs, dog and raptors make their way to have eggs as their food. But still we need to put in efforts to keep them  healthy and alive.
 Next step was to wait for 45 days to be able to watch in awe the first few unsure steps being taken by the tiny Olive Ridley after hatching and getting  immersed in the mighty sea forever and return after 10-12 years and cycle repeats. This will be sense of fulfilment as the babies head into their future. It was this feeling of absolute wonderment that I waited for accounted days to   watch hundreds of newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles walking over the carpet of sea sand, wadding towards the white and blue waters of the Arabian Sea with their first lapping. I reached the site a day before i.e Rusikulya beach, Orissa and with a motley group of environmentalists and tourists, I cheered as the hatchings pour out of the sandy pits, and take their first wobbly steps. My dream came true. 

The first steps
 I took my camera lens to focus on one of the babies, the struggle of the newborn is quite apparent as it takes in its bearings and tenses each and every sinew in its tiny body amidst a whirlwind slapping of minuscule flippers. Around it, hundreds of similar looking turtle babies some as small as my thumb are wobbling , thrashing their flippers on the wet sand, moving a head with small, jumps losing direction and bumping into each other, their tiny bodies etching crisscrossing trails in the sand. Near me, volunteers from a turtle conversation NGO are releasing the hatchlings and also protecting them against predatory birds that are already circling overhead. It is interesting  to note that the female turtles among the babies upon reaching adulthood will return to Rusikulya for laying eggs. As the last of the babies makes it to the sea, swimming vigorously into the open ocean away from the predators, I heave a sigh of relief, feeling proud to have been a part of these little ones journey.
The hatchings season starts from February to April (Depending upon the eggs laying +45 days).  While large stretches of India’s coastline are home to the turtle species, the Rusikulya beach is said to be the most popular nesting site on the Orissa coastline. However, just visiting the beach during the hatching seasons does not guarantee you sightings. Be in touch with forest officials and based on their confirmation, make a visit. 
The journey of the newborns towards the sea is extremely challenging. It is so perilous that only a few hundred make it to their destination out of the thousands of eggs laid. Wild predators and over population on the beach are major threats, but this is where the role of conservation societies like the NGO comes in and forest officials and local population.  
Facts : Knowing them 

1.  It grows about 2-3 feet in length, and weighting about 50 kg, the Olive Ridley derives it name from its Olive coloured carapace, which is heart shaped and rounded. Males and females grow to the same size, however, females have a slightly more rounded carapace as compared to male. They are carnivores, and feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs and a variety of fish. These turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean, and migrate thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
2. Females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched , to lay their eggs. During this phenomenal of nesting, up to 6000,000 and more females emerge from the waters to lay eggs. 
3. Easiest way identify the gender of an Olive Ridley is by the size of its Tail. The males have longer tails than the females
4. Although the Olive ridely is closely related to Kemp’s Ridley, the former is found only in warmer waters, including  the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
5. The coast of Orissa in the India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.
6. Olive Ridley turtles have a slightly smaller head and shell as compared to the Kemp’s Ridley
7.  The scientific name of Olive is Lepidochelys Olivacea
8. Olive ridley are migratory, sometimes travelling several thousands kilometres between their feedling grounds and nesting sites
9.  Whether hatchings are male or female depends on the temperature when they are in  the nest, known as the Pivotal temperature, while warmer temperature yield more female offsprings, more males are born if temperature are cooler
10. After about 45-50 days of the laying eggs, the hatchings begin to pip, or break out of their eggs, using a small temporary tooth located on their snout, called a caruncle. 
11.  The last walk of a hatchling from the nest to the sea is very critical to the imprinting of a geomagnetic field that helps female olive to their place of birth as adults. 
12. It is believed that olive ridley was named after henry Nicholas Ridley, a Notes scientist.

Challenges over  the Nesting Sites:-
1.  Industrial areas near the vicinity of Rushikulya. 
2. Artificial lighting along the coast at the nesting sites 
3. Use fishing mechanisms which is not turtle friendly for deep sea fishing.
4. Changing pattern of the beach and shoreline due to tidal dynamics and cyclonic disturbance which over  period of time is more frequent and devastating.
5.  Beach salinity, pollution levels due to oil spillage, temperature. 
6.  Hatchlings being consumed by wide range of predators from scavengers to birds, mammals and even crabs.
7. Shrinking habitat due to beaches divided into fragments and beach erosion leading to shortage of available suitable space for nesting. It is cutting of trees in the vicinity of eggs laying areas for financial gains. 

Join Us    

Download IWC Android app     IWC Android app

Copyright © 2001 - 2023 Indian Wildlife Club. All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use

Website developed and managed by Alok Kaushik