The Bay of Bengal, which supports special and fragile habitats such as pristine islands, mangrove forests and coral reefs, is a world treasure. Millions of people are dependent on these waters, as are endangered creatures such as sea turtles, dugongs, whale sharks and seahorses.
The Orissa coast, in the northern part of the Bay, is crucial to the survival of the rare Olive Ridley turtle, about 300,000 of which visit its beaches every year to lay their eggs.
Today the survival of this precious natural habitat is being threatened by destructive coastal development, unsustainable fishing practices, climate change, illegal trading of protected species and… thousands of stray dogs.
Hence the decision yesterday to round up the strays and prevent them eating the turtle eggs and hatchlings. ‘Ahead of the important egg-laying period in February, we thought of undertaking the population control of dogs to save the turtles,’ the director of the state veterinary and animal husbandry department in Bhubaneswar, Bishnu Pada Sethi, told Reuters.
The dogs will be rounded up and sterilized, then released in villages a safe distance from the beaches favored by the turtles. Sterilization will hopefully stop pregnant bitches from searching for eggs to feed themselves and, subsequently, their puppies.
‘When you consider that only one out of a thousand hatchlings makes it into the sea,’ said Greenpeace spokesman Sanjiv Gopal, ‘controlling the dog population is one of the many efforts required to save the turtle’.
Thousands of Olive Ridleys are also slaughtered every year for their meat and for what locals believe to be great medicinal value. According to Greenpeace, 8,000 -10,000 dead specimens are washed ashore every year after getting caught in fishing nets, despite the fact that the Indian government has banned trawlers in specific areas off the Orissa coast.