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DRDO to pause missile testing in Odisha to save Olive ridley turtles

Ahead of the beginning of the mass nesting season of endangered olive ridley sea turtles, the state government has urged the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to pause missile testing off the Odisha coast in February and March.

To protect the endangered creatures, the premier agency for military research and development will pause missile testing at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast during their nesting season, reported Times of India. 

He said the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) operates two major missile testing ranges in Odisha- Chandipur in Balasore district and the APJ Abdul Kalam Island, formerly Wheeler Island, in Bhadrak district.

“It is an annual practice to request the DRDO to restrict testings during this time as these locations are close to the famed Gahirmath sanctuary, which is considered the cradle of olive ridley turtles,” the senior official of the state Forest Department told PTI.

The DRDO adheres to the state’s request every year, he told the news agency. According to a TOI report, the DRDO will pause missile testing during the season in Odisha. 

A meeting chaired by Chief Secretary PK Jena was held on December 7. In the meeting, officials decided to request the DRDO to appoint a nodal officer to coordinate with the Fisheries Department to protect the turtles.

Olive ridley turtles’ nesting season

Every year during the nesting season, lakhs of olive ridley turtles visit Odisha’s coast for mating and laying eggs. Mating of olive ridley turtles begins in January. Whereas, the mass nesting begins in February at Gahirmath beach in Kendrapara district, Rushikulya beach in Ganjam, and the confluence of the Devi river and Bay of Bengal in Puri district.

These endangered species are sensitive and are likely to suffer from the missile testings during the mating and nesting season, an official told PTI.

Last year, a record 6.56 lakh turtles laid eggs at the Rushikulya rookery. Odisha’s Gahirmatha beach attracted around 5.12 lakh turtles turned up for mass nesting at the Gahirmatha beach.

To ensure the least intrusion at the beach during the nesting season, the state Home Department will deploy armed police for sea patrolling. Apart from this, personnel of the Fisheries Department along with the Indian Coast Guard and Forest Department will also be deployed for patrolling.

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Published: 09 Dec 2023, 08:13 PM IST

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