Once considered so abundant, various animal species are now listed in the endangered category by the IUCN. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority who observes the numerous species closely, their habitat, reproductive period, climatic conditions and much more. The main goal of IUCN is to encourage and assist the world to know about and save mother nature, including both plant and animal species. It takes the steps towards their protection and promotes their breeding to prevent extinction and maintain the balance of our ecosystem. Two of such endangered species highlighted in 2021 are Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and Platypus.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
These tropical turtles are olive green in colour. They are known for migrating hundreds of miles every year to return to their home coast for ‘Arribada’. Arribadas are the mass nesting events where thousands of female turtles return to the beach for laying their eggs and hatching. They are found in ample amounts on the coast of Odisha, Mexico and Costa Rica, Odisha being the largest breeding ground for more than 50% of their global population.
An Olive Ridley, usually lays about 120- 150 eggs at a time. It is estimated that out of every thousands of hatchlings that enter the sea, only one survives till adulthood. Such low survival rates have put this species under the red list of endangered animals. They were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. Later threats from soil erosion, human activities like sand mining for construction, exploitation of eggs for livestock and human consumption, increased their vulnerability. Commercial fisheries and increased non-degradable pollutants in the sea, resulted in the turtles being listed as endangered in IUCN’s Red List in 2011. After analysing many nesting sites surveys for around 15 years, scientists have studied that the population is increasing in some regions, but there is overall reduction in their global population size. The population which was once estimated to be around 8 million is now lowered to only 1 million of Olive Ridley, out of which only 10% are males.
Odisha Government and The Locals
Every year from November to December, ‘Operation Olivia’ is initiated at the Indian Coast, to protect and promote a safe breeding and nesting centre for Odisha’s Olive Ridley Sea turtles where the locals along with the forest department, patrol the beaches day and night to ensure safe nesting. The eggs which they feel are more at danger, are placed in safe manmade hatcheries. The coast is thoroughly cleaned before the breeding season and tourists are not allowed at those beaches. The safety of the turtles is prioritised by installing a net barricade that keeps predators like jackals, hyenas and wild dogs at bay. It has also been made mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), a net which allows the turtles to escape while fishing, to reduce accidental killing. Since 2019, the turtle festival is celebrated in Odisha, to promote eco-tourism. It is organized by Cox & Kings Foundation and few local organizations, through which the locals, tourists, fishermen researchers and environmentalists, can be a part of this conservation movement with combined efforts. Due to the restrictions during lockdown of Covid-19, there was no human interference or much disturbance, saving lakhs of Olive Ridleys. Compared to 2018’s cyclone, 2019 experienced a double mass nesting, which led to an increase in the nesting figures with over 4.5 lakh. ‘Fisher friend’ is an offline mobile application developed by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) on September 5th, 2017, which alerts the fishermen when they reach the boundaries of restricted areas and the no fishing zones, to help them save the Olive Ridleys. This customized app also helps users to know about the weather forecasts, disaster alerts and potential fishing zones in the ocean of Bay of Bengal.
A platypus, also known as a duckbill, is an Australian mammal who is known for its special adaptations and distinctive combination of features. Places like freshwater creeks, slow moving rivers are where these aquatically adapted mammals live, by digging a burrow in the river bank. Platypus are monotremes, one of the few egg laying mammals, who spend most of their life alone and feed on small water animals.
Factors Affecting the Species
From the land clearing and changes in the river flow over the years to the devastating impact of Black Summer in the country, Platypus have been in constant stress. They were listed as endangered species by the IUCN in 2016. The great predators like snakes, birds, foxes and wild dogs venture around the platypus' habitat. The Australian Summer of 2019, which came with tragic bushfires led the population of this creature to reduce by 2%. These rare animals were rescued from dried up lakes, where their burrows were clogged with sediments with limited food sources. Reports of 2020 showed that there are only around 3,00,000 platypuses left in this world. Though Australian fires are a common occurrence, the climate change which comes with major droughts and floods, have made the species really vulnerable.
Australia’s Refugee Centre
The locals and community members are being educated to understand the ecology and threats to platypus. Regular monitoring program has been implemented where habitats are observed, rivers and its surroundings are cleaned by locals and regular flow of the stream is kept in check. In 2019, the Australian government banned hunting and catching fishes, and the usage of any type of closed trap nets in the freshwater. Samples of water are also being tested to get the traces of Environmental DNA (eDNA) of platypus, like mucous and skin cells, with the help of which, one can learn more about the species and create a favourable environment for them to breed. This challenge is being undertaken by the government with different collaborators which includes the Victorian Government (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) and Melbourne Water.
The refuge will be built to study and learn more about highly specific habitat needs of platypus, so as to save them from extinction. Housing up to 65 platypuses, mainly after the emergencies and natural disasters. The refuge will be set up at Taronga Zoo, New South Wales by the year 2022. Ponds and burrows will be made by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, creating a suitable environment to promote breeding and re-establish population. We are hoping that the refugees work out well and protect them, because Earth is not ready to lose another fascinating creature.
The olive ridleys and platypus are still vulnerable. Not only the environmentalists, but also the locals and government are participating towards their protection. In february, 2021, increasing plastics and irresponsible dumping of garbage on the beach, led to the death of 800 of these turtles. The government agencies, forest and fisheries department had failed miserably towards the protection of Olive Ridley Turtles, due to their negligence. After the incident, protocols are being followed more strictly than ever. If steps are not taken to control climate change and human activities, then not only these but many more unique species will be on the verge of vanishing away from the face of Earth. We need to wake up before the land becomes barren of any animal and help however we can, to keep this beautiful diversity intact.