Stray dogs are being sterilized to protect many thousands of endangered Olive Ridley turtles that come to Orissa's beaches every winter for mass nesting and breeding. Dogs destroy several turtle nests and kill many baby turtles each year.
At least 22 dogs were sterilized over the weekend at the Devi river mouth, one of the three sites where the turtles come, said Amala Akkineni of the Hyderabad-based environmental group Blue Cross. "One pair of dogs gives rise to 2,000 in their lifetime. The operation will reduce the number of dogs in these areas, reducing the future destruction of turtle nests," said Amala.
The other two nesting sites are the Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapada district and the Rusikulya river mouth in Ganjam district. Gahirmatha is known as the world's largest rookery for the Olive Ridley.
Blue Cross is conducting the sterilisation programme in collaboration with the department of fisheries and animal resources development and some NGOs.
Said Amala: "We will sterilize at least 2,500 dogs in the next six months in all three nesting sites to save turtle eggs and hatchlings. We will also provide training to 15 veterinary doctors to carry out the task."
Until five years ago, the sea surrounded Nasi-1 and Nasi-2, two tiny islands within the Gahiramatha beach, where turtles come for mass nesting. As a result, no animal could reach the islands to destroy the eggs. At least half a million turtles lay eggs on these two islands.
But since 2002, the islands have become accessible from the neighbouring Wheeler Island, a missile test range, due to erosion. Now dogs and other animals enter Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 to feast on the eggs and baby turtles.
"The missile test range is a prohibited area for common people. We have sought permission from defence ministry officials to sterilise dogs there," said Bichitrananda Biswal of the Orissa Turtle Trust.
In the past 11 years, over a million turtles have been killed on the Orissa coast by predators and due to mechanised fishing, he added.