Long-term monitoring of sea turtles at the Rushikulya mass nesting rookery, Odisha

Mohit MudliarChandana Pusapati, Muralidharan.M and Kartik Shanker

Rushikulya, in southern Odisha, is one of two mass nesting rookeries for olive ridley sea turtles in Odisha. Rushikulya and Gahirmatha represent the only major mass nesting beaches for olive ridleys outside central America. Dakshin Foundation initiated a long-term programme at Rushikulya in 2008, conducting ecological research and working towards community-based conservation models involving the local community and the state forest department.

We monitor offshore populations during the breeding season to determine spatial and temporal variation in abundance and distribution. We monitor solitary nesting and conduct a census during mass nesting to assess population trends. We also measure hatching success and body size as indices of population health. Finally, we measure temperature and estimate hatchling sex ratios to assess the impact of climate change.

All mass nesting events are monitored using the standardised procedure that is used globally. The ecological research has also focused on the potential impacts of changing temperatures on hatchling sex ratios, since sex in sea turtles is determined by incubation temperature of the nests. 30 nests are relocated to a hatchery annually to monitor incubation temperatures (using data loggers) and to collect dead hatchlings for sexing.

Monitoring of turtle aggregations in the offshore waters was initiated in 2010 using a line transect-based approach. The in-water surveys provide information about the location and movement of turtle congregations, and an alternate metric for assessing long-term trends in populations.

In addition, we interact regularly with the local forest department and conduct training programmes for their field staff on methods of carrying out the mass nesting census and for the maintenance of hatcheries. A pictorial manual has been produced to assist field and forest department staff in carrying out the census.

 

Other Projects:

Publications:

Partner Institutions:

Centre for Ecological Science, Indian Institute of Sciences (Ongoing)

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (Past)

Department of Environment and Forests, Government of Odisha

Grants:

Donor Agency Year
Marine Turtle Conservation Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service 2010-2020
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 2008-Ongoing
Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, GIZ-India, New Delhi 2016-2017

 

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