| The dead turtles outside Naveen Patnaik’s New Delhi residence. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, April 14: Greenpeace campaigners this morning laid out flower-bedecked carcasses, skulls, bones and shells of Olive Ridley sea turtles in front of Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s private residence here.
Flies swooped in and feasted on the turtle carcasses and the stench of decaying flesh wafted in the air for three hours as the activists blocked exit gates and alleged that Patnaik was responsible for “turtle genocide in Orissa”.
Greenpeace said its volunteers have counted over 2,100 dead Olive Ridley turtles along Orissa’s coastline since January. Most of the turtles are believed to have died after being trapped in the nets of trawlers operating in no-trawling zones.
“These dead turtles are evidence of the state’s failure to protect this endangered species,” said Ashish Fernandes, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, before police hauled away the activists and the turtles in separate vans. “The chief minister can no longer evade his responsibility. He needs to take action now to prevent turtle deaths.”
The beaches of Orissa are among the few remaining nesting grounds for Olive Ridley turtles that head for shores each year to lay their eggs. Over the past 12 years, Greenpeace said, volunteers have counted more than 120,000 dead turtles. Since January, over 2,100 dead Olive Ridleys have been counted along an 80 km stretch of beach from Ramchandi to Jatadhar.
Patnaik said his government “is concerned and taking all possible measures” for the well-being of the Olive Ridley turtles. “The police, the forest department, and the local people have been sensitised about this issue,” he said. Patnaik offered to meet two representatives of Greenpeace but the activists insisted that he come out or they be allowed to take a turtle carcass inside.
The Greenpeace activists said they decided to cart the turtles to Patnaik’s residence only after Orissa’s chief wildlife warden conceded that he did not have the resources or the equipment to check trawling in the no-trawling zones.
“The Orissa authorities have brought some patrol boats but they’re not fast enough to catch trawlers nor do they go out often enough into the sea,” said Fernandes.
Three Greenpeace activists were later booked for violating rules governing the transport of endangered species. They plan to file bail applications tomorrow.
The Greenpeace activists said they collected the turtle remains from the beaches, packed them in ice and brought them to Delhi “via land transport”.
“We’re prepared for arrests,” said Imran Khan, a Greenpeace activist from Bangalore, who had spent several hours on the mast of the French ship Clemenceau before being arrested by French authorities.
“I’ve got to appear in a French military court next month,” Khan said.