Wondering what I am talking about? Welcome to the world of professional cleaners. They are nothing but the crabs that inhabit the broken bridge region. Working like soldiers day and night, they ensure that the place is clean, just because they love dirt. These organisms are known as Detrivores, meaning detritus feeders (dead organic matter).

One fine Sunday evening, I was clearing the plastics near the baby mangroves and to my surprise, I saw a “Red hermit crab” running across. When I closely examined the crab, I found that it was wearing a gastropod shell. Hermit crabs fight for gastropod shells which they consider as their home. Bingo! Next I saw the ever waving crabs, known as Fiddler crab. These fellows are very interesting and they are more commonly found in estuarine environments. They have their own burrows; they keep waving their claws every now and then. One might think they are retards because they keep inviting you to their burrows without even considering your size, it seems like that. There is also miniature Mud crab or Mangrove crab, which live in this ecosystem. No harm in playing with them when are small but once they grow, they become huge. If handled improperly, they can deliver a deadly bite with their claws. Mud crabs can grow up to the size of a tender coconut (Scylla serrata)

I was delighted to learn about the interactions. It is hard to believe that animals are surviving in these regions where pollution shows its real face. As a marine biology student I have been trained to assess a given ecosystem simply by looking at the flora and fauna and the interactions between them. This looks promising. If we keep cleaning the place to facilitate the growth of the mangroves, not only are the mangroves benefitted, but also these little creatures. We are not only reclaiming a lost ecosystem but also making it sustainable for the years to come.

Links

· Mud crab – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scylla_serrata

· Fiddler crab – http://www.fiddlercrab.info/

· Gastropods – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastropod_shell

A hermit crab

Fiddler CrabFiddler crab

Mud CrabMud crab

—-

Rahul, ROB

Editor’s Note – Rahul is a student of Marine Studies at MCC, doing his masters. He’s also our local expert on all things aquatic.

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There was a certain point in my life, when I’m pretty sure movies took over my world. It happened probably 6 years back, when broadband was installed on my computer and as a small innocent child, I was exposed to the vast, virtual world of cyberspace. I could see myself transforming into a new being as I sat in front of the computer day-in and day-out, like a toddler obsessing over his new plastic toy, chewing on it all day long, figuring out the infinite ways in which it could be broken apart, not fully understanding it’s potential or the endless possibilities.

Unknowingly, I was becoming an anti-social, technologically-obsessed victim of the corrupted internet: what Kitchi (Editor’s Note – Krishna, from ROB) would refer to as a “Closet Geek”, cause I did appear pretty normal on the outside. After years of prowling over chatrooms, forums, fansites, million dollar ideas, social networking sites and meeting fellow hackers, geeks and weird stalkers who wanted pictures of my teeth for dental projects (No, seriously), I realized that there was actually something that one could learn from all this.

Apart from the fact that I was failing at school (Except math, I love math), the internet never ceased to amaze me or educate me: Until of course, it fell victim to piracy (which is a good thing) and now, I was head over heels in love with it. After that, my daily routine went something like this: Movie, IMDB, another Movie, IMDB, 2 more movies, bladder check, Refill Popcorn, IMDB, Sleep. I was addicted. I became a part of a new generation of men raised by IMDB.

Living in a delusional world abundant with hackers, crackers, technopaths and movie-addicts, cleaning up the beaches was never on my schedule for the weekend. This was before Archanaa and I met Siddharth Hande, Srikrishna “Kitchi” Sekhar and a whole bunch of other people who were ready to get their hands dirty for the sake of the entire world. Yeah, sort of like superheroes. In fact, we call ourselves the “Super awesome cool” clean-up committee (along the lines of “Justice League” or “The Avengers”).

ROB has completely taken over my life since then. There is a perpetual urge to be involved in all of our activities: pushing me every single day to answer my e-mails, update the website and bunk college to attend meetings. ROB became a drug and I was addicted. I was transforming yet again, but this time doing some good along the way.

Gradually, I was spiraling into a new kind of obsession. Saving the environment became a day to day activity and I was actually having fun while doing it. Over the course of the past 3 months, I’ve come to learn so much about our environment, what’s causing its destruction and what the possible solutions to it are. What I refused to learn from my textbooks at school, I learnt from ROB.

Meeting a lot of new characters along the way, ROB has also shown me a way to socialize with the right kind of people: ones who care about the environment and would be ready to do anything to save it from destruction.

Looking back, I am only able to see bits and pieces of all our times together. Like the time I taught Hande and Kitchi how to play the Guitar, or the time I took all those pictures of the Beach and Arun Pandian conveniently took credit for it, or when I taught Anjana to make all those decorations for all our events at SPACES. It’s sad to see people steal credit for the stuff I do, but I guess that’s one more thing that I am ready to sacrifice for the sake of ROB.

From where I’m sitting, I see a group with a lot of potential. I see in ROB, a fire that will burn for a long time to come. We will not rest until the beach is rid of all the sewage, plastic and garbage. We won’t stand by and watch our very own beach ruined in front of our eyes. We will fight towards reclaiming our beaches. But always keep in mind what Archanaa said – “Have fun, responsibility”.

If there’s plastic on the beach

we’ll clean it

if there’s dirt of the ground

we’ll sweep it

we will not stop,

until we get it all.

We’ll get it all!

Cheers,

Kau,

ROB

The Olive Ridley sea turtle truly is a magnificent creature of the sea. It sports a beautiful heart-shaped olive-colored shell with pairs of sharp scales, or scutes, as it paddles through the open ocean, looking like a living submarine. And when the time for reproduction comes, many thousands of female turtles emerge from the sea at night to lay their eggs, a truly amazing sight. This reptile is one of the wonders of the ocean, and is a credit to aquatic life.

Olive Ridleys are the most common species of sea turtle, and approximately 800,000 females come to nest annually. Their sizes vary from region to region, but overall, they are quite small among other sea turtles, adults being 45 kilograms and 56-79 centimeters on average. The largest specimens are found on the West coast of Mexico, but there are Olive Ridley habitats in all the waters around India as well. They can be identified by their olive heart-shaped shell and the high amount of scutes, surrounding it.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of their behavior is their nesting habits. Every year, a large number of females come onto beaches and lay their eggs in masses, an activity known as an “arribada.” Although some females will lay some of their eggs away from the others, most turtles will gather in masses near the coast before moving onto the beaches for the arribada. One time, 200,000 turtles took part in a single arribada on a beach in India!

Once they lay their eggs, the mothers will go their own way. As for the eggs, those that have not been eaten by other animals hatch into baby turtles, which try to avoid predators and make their way back to the ocean.

Olive Ridley turtles have now been listed as an endangered species. Since the 1960s, the overall turtle population has gone down by 50%. Some possible threats include the destruction of beaches which are used for arribadas, directed harvest of turtles, and bycatching, which can happen when turtles are accidentally caught in nets.

One such problem occurs on the coast of Tamil Nadu in Southeastern India. Currently, the government is creating several projects to beautify the coastline. First, they are trying to build docks extending far into the ocean, which will eventually cause erosion of the beaches around it to increase, destroying the nesting sites of these turtles. To add to that, they are thinking of putting streetlights near the beach, unaware of the devastating effect it will have on the turtle population. When baby turtles hatch and dig themselves out of the sand, they get back to the ocean by following light sources such as the stars, the sun, and the moon. However, if they hatch at night, they may mistake the streetlights for these light sources and waddle onto the road, where they may get run over by cars or eaten by dogs. Also, several fishermen illegally use gill netting, in which turtles are caught as bycatch.

There are several things we can do to save these creatures. We can educate the coastal population on the dangers of the government projects and eventually petition against them. We can also educate the fishermen on why gill-netting is wrong and what areas they shouldn’t fish in.

In the end, it all comes down to education of the locals. If we don’t stop the genocide of these reptiles, bad consequences will come to the sea. Without the turtles, balance in the coastal ecosystem will be lost, for they play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping invertebrate and algae populations at bay. A decline in their population would diminish fish populations, and thus hurt fishermen. Above all, we would lose many of these beautiful creatures that inhabit our waters.

Naren Pradhan

World Famous

March 1, 2010

Reclaim Our Beaches apparently isn’t a local phenomenon.

New Zealand is doing it too.

New Zealand has their own ‘Reclaim Our Beach’, an initiative to clean up Evans Bay.

Unbelievable, yes? That’s what we thought too.

It gets crazier, though. The ‘Reclaim Our Beach’ initiative was started by the local 350.org group in New Zealand.

To draw out the similarities…

Our very own ‘Reclaim Our Beaches’, was started as a collaborative effort between the ‘Save Chennai Beaches’ campaign, and the ‘350me’ group. We did clean up Elliot’s Beach. They have also done a survey of the beach, in a manner strikingly similar to us.

Well, you know what they say about great minds.

Krishna,

ROB