Maharashtra’s coastal districts to have marine animal rescue centres before next monsoon
While two new centres have been proposed at Rs 20 lakh each at Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri, an existing structure at Alibag will be revamped with various facilities at a cost of Rs 4 lakh.Updated: Sep 13, 2020, 20:52 IST
Maharashtra’s coastal districts will have their own marine animal rescue centre before next monsoon and the state through the Mangrove Foundation has allocated a budget of Rs 65.5 lakh to develop new centres and upgrade existing ones.
While two new centres have been proposed at Rs 20 lakh each at Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri, an existing structure at Alibag will be revamped with various facilities at a cost of Rs 4 lakh. Additionally, Rs 10 lakh will be used to upgrade an existing centre in Dahanu while remaining funds have been allocated for the maintenance of existing centres.
These marine animal transit-and-treatment units cater to cases of cetaceans and sea turtle strandings, injuries, post-mortems, and rescues.
“Final execution of our projects is expected by May before the monsoon when maximum cases are reported,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell). “We are in consultation with experts to further enhance our infrastructure at each centre by including better equipment, a variety of tanks, medical apparatus and providing artificial sea salt (suitable for sea turtles to stay in).”
According to data from the mangrove cell, a total of 110 sea turtles (100 alive and 10 dead) washed ashore or got trapped in fishing nets between November 2019 and September 2020. Of these, 101 were Olive Ridley, seven Green sea turtles, and two were Hawksbill turtles. During the same period, 23 cetaceans - nine Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, five Baleen whales, five finless porpoise, and two striped dolphins - washed ashore along the state coastline.
Equipped with two 1,000 litre and five 500 litre tanks, an operation table, medicines, equipment and visiting veterinarians, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) got its first marine animal treatment centre on July 26 at the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre at Airoli, Navi Mumbai.
In 2018, the forest department with various non-profit groups began a marine respondent network to coordinate fast response to marine treatment cases but a designated centre was not present. Only one treatment centre had been functional in Maharashtra in Dahanu, Palghar, over 10 years. This year, 38 turtles were brought to Dahanu while three were taken to Airoli for treatment.
According to a forest officer, who spoke to HT requesting anonymity, the 38 sea turtles were in critical health that washed ashore at Dahanu.
“While 20 succumbed to death, seven were successfully released after treatment and 11 remain critical under our care,” the officer said.
Dr Dinesh Vinherkar, appointed in-charge of the Dahanu rescue centre by the Maharashtra forest department, confirmed the details. “This year, the annual mortality and injury rate of turtles has been much higher. Cases involving accidents with boats, propellers or getting caught in fishnets has led to complete blood loss (anaemia), damage to lungs, decapitated flippers or harm to their digestive tract due to plastic, ropes, rubber and foreign bodies in their stool due to coastal pollution - all leading to floating syndrome (wherein a turtle is unable to swim into deep waters and is brought to shore during high tide). Thus, we could only release those that are fit to find food,” he said.
Marine biologist with the Mangrove Foundation Harshal Karve said, “Developing district-wise centres will help provide treatment on time and boost further research. Data collected will help understand the causes of stranding and aid future conservation practices.”
Veterinarian Dr Rina Dev, consultant with the mangrove cell at the Airoli centre said, “If every district becomes self-sufficient by providing immediate treatment to marine animals rather than putting pressure on one centre, the entire rehabilitation and conservation process becomes a successful model. The mangrove cell has already begun workshops with all coastal stakeholders explaining specifics about rescues and resolving stranding-related issues.”
Dr Vinherkar added, “There is a need for providing treatment to these species within a short period to save their lives. It will also help form a network for better results.”
Such centres would need equipment including x-ray machines, isolation tanks, dry-docking tanks, thermoregulation equipment, filtration units, artificial sea salt apart from basic apparatus, added Dr Vinherkar.