Conservation of the Sea turtle by TREE Foundation, on Coasts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh & Odisha



Background

The Olive Ridley sea turtles are one of the smallest sea turtle species, inhabiting the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. They grow to about 3 feet in length and have an olive-green colored heart-shaped carapace. Until the early 90s, these turtles were harvested for their eggs, skin and shells; killed as incidental capture in fishing gears and sustained vessel strike injuries. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, there has been a 30-50% reduction in its global population size and has therefore been classified as ‘vulnerable’.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

The Trust for Environment Education, Conservation and Community Development, referred to as the TREE Foundation, is a Registered Charitable Trust, situated in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Founded October 2002, it is guided by the world-famous environmentalist, Dr Jane Goodall DBE26. It works with the primary objective of protecting the fragile marine ecosystem and its sea turtle population. It adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to biodiversity conservation that is inclusive of local communities and their development needs. The Sea turtle conservation initiatives by TREE, stretch along the east coast of India i.e from Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, covering a total of 600km of nesting coastline. The TREE Foundation has formed several partnerships with key institutions for successful implementation of the initiative, such as, the state forest department, the fisheries department, the marine police, National Biodiversity Authority, the media etc. Since its inception, the initiative has employed 316 marginalised young fishermen in the Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF), who use their traditional knowledge for the identification of the turtle nests and safeguard them from predators and poachers by regularly patrolling the beaches. In Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the STPF members are referred to as ‘Turtle Watchers’, whereas in Tamil Nadu, they are called ‘Turtle Guards’. They are paid a stipend by the state forest department. TREE also established the first Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Tamil Nadu, which has till date, rescued 57 Turtles entangled in ghost nets and released them back into the sea. Awareness programmes, regarding fishing norms during nesting season and the destructive consequences of using unsustainable fishing tools, have been conducted for more than 375,000 fishing community members. Additionally, marine litter awareness and Coastal Clean-up programmes have been implemented in partnership with the Indian Coast Guard. The foundation has till date successfully released over 2,400,000 hatchlings safely into the sea, along with rescue/rehabilitation of 7 juvenile green turtles, 5 hawksbill turtles and 2 spinner dolphins. Successful satellite tagging of two Olive Ridley turtles and one green turtle has been achieved. Furthermore, TREE is the first NGO to conduct Turtle Excluder Device (TED)27 trials in association with Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) along with additional trials with trawl fisheries at the fishing harbour in Tamil Nadu. It has influenced 2,180 trawl boat owner associations for voluntary implementation of TED. The TREE Roots & Shoots programme helps connect students through education, volunteering and communication to expand the member network for a wider reach and effective movement towards biodiversity conservation in India.

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards

The TREE Foundation received special mention in India Biodiversity Awards under the category ‘Conservation of Species in Wild’ in 2018 for its conservation initiatives.

Contact Supraja Dharini Tel. +91 94440 52242 Email: treefoundation2002@yahoo.com