By Sanjay Borkar
Panaji, Jan 29 (IANS): After incidents of disturbing Olive Ridley turtles laying eggs on the beaches of Goa were reported, the forest department has decided to make tourists aware of the importance of their conservation by distributing pamphlets in hotels and other areas.
There are four beach stretches in Goa -- Tembwada-Morjim and Ashvem in north Goa, and Agonda and Galgibaga in south Goa -- where the forest department has been carrying out sea turtle conservation programmes.
However, in the past few days there were incidents in north Goa where the tourists roaming on the beaches late at night used torches to have a glimpse of the turtles coming to lay eggs, who were disturbed and went back to sea without laying eggs.
"It was a very disturbing incident (in Calangute) that a turtle went back to sea without laying eggs because of the crowd and lights. These things should stop. There should be guards across the stretches where these turtles come to lay the eggs," a resident of north Goa told IANS.
According to the locals, tourists are very keen to watch the turtles and out of enthusiasm they try to click photos by using flashes.
"One should speak in a low voice and move slowly so as not to scare the female turtles. There should be no movement in the nesting sites. But people don't understand this and ignoring all these rules they disturb the turtles," they said.
"On Friday morning, an Olive Ridley sea turtle came to Calangute beach around 3.30 a.m. Due to the crowd and the noise the turtle which had come to lay eggs went back into the water,," a youth from Calangute said on condition of anonymity.
He said that these sea turtles usually come from November to March to nest along the coast of Goa. But, due to the crowds and the loud noise at the beaches they get stressed and go back without laying the eggs as they assume that it could be unsafe for the eggs to hatch at that site.
"It is essential that sea turtles are not disturbed on the beaches as this can lead to the loss of turtle hatchlings which can reduce these endangered marine animals' population," he added.
Aniket Gaonkar, deputy conservator of forests-South, told IANS that nesting in south Goa began from December 28.
"Though no such incident of disturbing turtles has happened in the South, but we have a guard on duty for 24 hours near the nesting sites. They monitor all the activities," he said, adding so far 1000 odd eggs have been laid by the turtles in south Goa.
He informed that recently the Chief Conservator of Forests held a meeting and it was decided to make people aware about the nesting sites. "We will distribute pamphlets in the hotels and other areas to make people aware about the nesting sites and what care people should take when they are near these sites," he said.
According to the locals Olive Ridley turtles have started to change their regular sites due to crowds on the beaches.
Fishermen from the Miramar beach, around 4 kilometres from the capital city Panaji, said that in the past few days an incident had happened on this beach where the turtle went back into the water without laying eggs.
"Forest Department officials put up nets around the nest and put up a signboard stating it is a nesting site. However, people don't care about it and make noise near the area," a fisherman said.
According to sources, a similar incident had happened in the second week of January at Ashvem in the coastal Pernem-North Goa, where an Olive Ridley turtle went back into the water after being disturbed by the people around. The turtle was disturbed while it was in the process of digging a hole in the sand to lay eggs. Later, forest officials visited the site and an inquiry was made.