Last month there was news of carcasses of more than 1000 sea turtles being washed ashore the beaches of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Olive Ridley turtles, which are a common sight at the coastal areas in India have been declared a vulnerable species.
Of the seven species of sea turtles that exist in the world, three species are critically endangered, two are endangered and two are vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red list 2013.
An essential part of marine ecosystems, sea turtles have been struggling to live through each day. Slaughtered for their eggs, skin, shells and meat, they suffer from poaching and over exploitation. They indirectly also suffer from habitat destruction due to human activities that increase marine pollution and global warming.
Disposal of industrial waste into oceans, increased air pollution levels due to emissions etc. has been known to alter temperatures in areas where turtles nest. Excessive warming causes the sand near beaches to heat up as well, which affects hatchlings by altering their sex.
Another unique problem that exists along various coasts including India is that of fishing. Although not fished directly, sea turtles get entangled in fishing nets. Unable to surface above water to be able to breathe, they often drown after getting stuck in a net.
Although conservationists across the world are working to save these endangered animals, there is not enough awareness about the issue or their importance especially among people who live inland, far away from the coast.
These creatures form an integral part of the marine ecosystem. Acting as grazing animals for marine grass that grows on sea beds, (which is very important for the growth and development of other water species) they help keep in check the other species that maybe at risk of getting endangered. They also maintain health of the dunes and the beaches, their eggs providing essential nutrient to the sand to support other species as well.
The creation exists in balance. The mass imbalance being inflicted by human activities across the globe in all realms is certain to bounce back very soon. It is important for us to understand that each and every creature is essential to maintain an ecological balance on this earth and unless we work actively to protect our weaker counterparts, this planet is going towards doom very quickly.