Tamil Nadu - Gulf of Mannar & Palk Bay

Coral Reef Conservation Rapid Response Plan Meeting, Tuticorin

SCUBA Diving with Biodiversity Monitoring Training for frontline staff of Forest Department

Our team at TN organized for SCUBA training for the frontline staff of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to enhance the capacity for better monitoring of the coastal biodiversity from the 13th-19th, August, 2018. 5 forest officials of the Forester rank, trained by Mr.Aravind, Temple Adventures, Pondicherry,have been given certification by PADI, Australia as Open-Water SCUBA Divers and are prepared to monitor the coastal biodiversity. The event attracted the attention of Forest Staff from all ranks- DFO, ACF and RFO, to dive and it was a great encouragement for the new students.

SCUBA Course with Marine Biodiversity Training Course for Foresters
Dugong Rescue

On 26th July, 2018, Keezhathottam Village near Ammapattinam in Palk Bay witnessed the rescue of the fourth Dugong in India. The Dugong was entangled in a fishing net. The Fishermen, WII team, OMCAR (an NGO) and the Marine Police aided in the rescue mission which was flawlessly accomplished by the fishermen. On 08th August, 2018, Fishermen (both, rescuers and informers) were given compensation by the CAMPA- Dugong Recovery Project, for loss of net and profit in the form of a prize money (Rs. 10,000/- for rescuer Mr.Naguram and Rs.3,000/- for informer, Mr.Chelladurai) by TN PCCF and TBGP Director, Mr.Jagdish IFS, WLW, Ramanathapuram, GoMMNP, Mr. Ashok Kumar IFS, DFO, Thanjavur, Mr.Guruswamy and DFO, Tiruvarur, Mr.Arivoli. About 70 members from the fishing community including women and children attended the function.

Dugong Rescue and Incentive Programme
Marine Biodiversity Monitoring

The Tamil Nadu Forest Department entrusted us with the responsibility to conduct a one-day biodiversity monitoring of the Seagrass and Coral Restoration Efforts by the TNFD and SDMRI at Mandapam and Thondi, Palk Bayusing snorkelling and SCUBA diving on 8th August, 2018. The event was headed by the TN PCCF and Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Greening Project Director, Mr.Jagdish IFS, Wildlife Warden, Ramanathapuram and Gulf of MannarMarine National Park, Mr. Ashok Kumar IFS and Ramanthapuram ACF, Mr. C. Rajkumar. Required data in the forl of photographs were provided to the TNFD.

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and Biosphere Reserve Management Plan

Dr. K. Sivakumar and the our Team at Tamil Nadu presented the Draft Management Plan for the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park to the Wildlife Warden at Ramnad and officially declared it open for suggestions by anyone on 9th April, 2018 The same was also tweeted by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environments and Forests on 19thApril, 2018. On 27th July, 2018, the Draft Management Plan was presented by Dr. K. Sivakumar to Mr.Raghunathan IFS, former PCCF, TNFD, Mr. Sanjay Srivastav IFS, CWLW, TNFD, Mr.Debasis Jana IFS, ACCF, TNFD and Mr. Ashok Kumar IFS, WLW, Ramanathapuram (GoMMNP) at the office of the TN PCCF, Chennai. Changes in the draft plan and suggestions were discussed.

Submission of Draft Management Plan to the Wildlife Warden
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park Management Plan Meeting, Chennai
Mass Boat Surveys

4 fishing boats were hired to conduct the first set of mass boat surveys in Mandapam area, Palk Bay on the 10th of June, 2018. Each boat was led by a researcher from our team, a forest guard, a boat man and one or 2 others from the fishing community to help in efficient sighting of marine macrofauna and plastic. Although the sea state did not favour our surveys as we ventured into deeper waters, there was a very good interaction with several fishermen who accompanied us. We have got several more members added to our network and they have already reported marine mammal (even dugong) sightings in their area. They now have the ‘Save Dugong’ mobile application installed on their smart phones and have agreed to take dugong conservation to the community level in a more effective and systematic manner. T-shirts were distributed to all. A similar survey was conducted at Ammapattinam, Palk Bay on the 10th of July, 2018. These surveys, more than being effective methods to sight Dugongs and other marine mammals, proved to be more useful to build our rapport with the local community from the point of view of involving them in our research activities.

Mass Boat Survey at Mandapam
Mass Boat Survey at Ammapattinam
Outreach Programmes for 5 days

Our team from Thondi was invited to talk about dugongs at the community meetings conducted by the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department at Soliyakudi, Pasipattinam, Thondi, Devipattinam and Thirupalaikudi for 5 consecutive days from 26th -29th June, 2018. We got an opportunity to meet with village heads and fishermen in order to strengthen our network.

Talk about dugongs at the community meetings conducted by the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department
Intentional Capture of a Dugong in Thondi

On the 20th of June, 2018, the Marine Police of Thondi arrested three fishermen who had intentionally captured a 10-ft long fully grown adult male Dugong. We were informed about this by a member of our Friends of Dugong Network as well as the Marine Police. Post mortem was carried out by us under the guidance of a Government veterinarian. Worms were found in the dugong’s stomach. Samples were collected to be sent for genetic analysis. This served as an important awareness creation event against poaching as members of two villages witnessed the post-mortem that exposed the horrific sight of stomach worms in the Dugong. Also, it showed people how our viscera did not differ (in names and appearance) much from the dugong’s; hence sending the message that the dugong is just like us and must not be killed. The arrest of the 3 fishermen and seizing of the boat did show the people the result of committing such a crime.

Intentional Dugong Capture 20 June 2018
World Ocean Day Celebrations

We were part of the World Ocean Day celebrations on 5th June, 2018, organized by the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Dept. Forest dept., people from CMFRI, the Coast Guard and Marine Police, who all addressed the gathering. Men and women of the fishing community attended the meeting. We interacted with the fishermen and emphasised the need to conserve dugongs and other endangered marine organisms.

Dugong Awareness Meeting at World Ocean Day celebrations
Beach Clean-up at World Ocean Day celebrations
When Mr.Dhritiman Mukherjee visited us

We got an opportunity to spend time with India's only full-time still-photographer- Mr. Dhritiman Mukherjee, who visited Tamil Nadu from 28th May to 1st June, 2018. We introduced him to the unique biodiversity of the seagrass and coral ecosystems in different spots at both, Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay. He was very impressed with the unexplored biodiversity here.

Our Team with Mr.Dhritiman Mukherjee
A Squid and a Snapper at Palk Bay, the way Mr.Dhritiman’s camera sees them
World Biodiversity Day Celebrations

On 22nd May, 2018, 29 Dugong ambassadors participated in the World Biodiversity Day celebrations at Ariyaman Beach. The day began with Rangoli competitions for women from EDC, followed by an awareness rally by the dugong ambassadors, an introduction to Turtle Exclusion Device for fishermen and participants by the Range Forest Officer, Mandapam Range and a beach clean-up programme by our dugong ambassadors, EDC members and other volunteers present at the venue.

Awareness rally by the dugong ambassadors in World Biodiversity Day celebrations at Ariyaman Beach
Capacity Building for Forest Officials:

The team helped 2 of the frontline staff of Tamil Nadu Forest Department at Thondi to develop their skills needed to monitor the coastal biodiversity on 17th March, 2018. The IFS course students from WII were brought to the Gulf of Mannar as an extended field visit for three days from 16th to 19th May, 2018. The programme began with a description of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and its biodiversity by the Wildlife Warden, Ramanathapuram (Mr. Ashok Kumar, IFS), followed by a briefing of all the activities and initiatives of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) by the Range Forest Officer, GoMBRT (Mr.Raghuvaran) and our project work was exhibited to them in the form of a presentation and talk by our team members (Mr.PremJothi, Ms.RukminiShekar and Mr.MadhuMagesh). On the 2nd and 3rd days, the 10 IFS officers from India (4) and Myanmar (5) were introduced to tools and techniques (snorkelling, forest management practices in protected marine areas and identifying living organisms in the sea) used to carry out research and monitoring in the coastal environment. Common animals and shore types were shown and explained to them, such as sandy shores, coral reefs and seagrass beds in both Gulf of Mannar MNP (Krusadai Island) and Palk Bay (Karangkadu). They also visited the self-help group (in Tirupulani) where women make baskets and mats using palm leaves.

IFS officers visit to Self-help group at Tirupulani IFS officers at Ramanathapuram
Meetings with NGO’s to extend our network

On 10th April, 2018, the team, along with our Project Investigator, Dr. K. Sivakumar, met with M.P. Vasimalai and T.Asaithambi of Dhaan Foundation at Madurai. The NGO showed a positive response to our initiative and has even agreed to sign anMoU in regard with the same.

Our team presented our work to Dr.Sesh Serabiah and other members of his NGO: Jehovah Shamma Centre for Marine and Wildlife Research at Mudiveerapattinam, in Palk Bay to discuss the aims of our project, our need for volunteers, status of seagrass and also the status of Gulf of Mannar Seas. They agreed to work with us. We also discussed the GoM management plan and possible inclusions and corrections.

Meeting with NGO (Dhaan Foundation, Madurai)
Meeting with NGO (Jehovah Shamma Centre for Marine and Wildlife Research, Mudiveerapattinam, Palk Bay)
Capacity Building for students

About 7 Students from Alagappa University, Thondi (on 13th March, 2018) and 20 from Syed Hameedha College, Kilakarai (on 27th March, 2018) were introduced to the important tools in marine research: Snorkeling and SCUBA diving, by our team here in Thondi. Along with this, they were told about the variety of marine life in the seagrass and coral ecosystems of the region and the need to conserve this diversity. Alagappa University students were given field training at Thondi, whereas the latter were given their training at Nallathanni Island, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, where forest officials participated in the training as well.

Capacity building for students of Alagappa University, Thondi at Thondi
Capacity building for students of Syed Hameedha College, Kilakarai at Nallathanni Island
Meeting with Coast Guard

The Tamil Nadu team of the CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Programme presented the project’s work in the region, and explained how we could use help from the Indian Coast Guard, to 32 Indian Coast Guard officials, including the Commander-in-chief and two Commandants, on the 15th of March, 2018. We discussed the issue of lack of data about dugong and other marine mammal sightings and that they could help fill this gap. They readily accepted the data sheets we gave away and agreed to provide information regarding the same. They also invited us to be part of their fishermen awareness programme to talk about safe fishing practices later that day, where we also interacted with the fishermen telling them about our project and the urgency to save Dugongs.

Meeting at Coast Guard Station ,Mandapam
Meetings at Coast guard station, Mandapam and Fishing community meeting at Mandapam
Dugong and endangered marine species awareness programme

On the 7th and 10th of March, 2018, The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust with the CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Team, Wildlife Institute of India together conducted awareness programmes at five villages in Ramanathapuram District in Palk Bay. Arumbugal Trust, an organization that creates awareness about saving the marine biodiversity using folklore as a means of communication, were invited and the programmes were a grand success, attracting fisher folk from all age groups and levels in village administration.

Awareness programmes in 5 Fishing villages of Palk Bay

Rally for Clean Beaches and a Clean-up drive (Feb 9, 2018)

On the 9th of February, 2018, The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) with the CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Team, Wildlife Institute of India conducted a rally and beach clean-up programme at Chinna Ervadi Beach for school students to emphasize the importance of keeping beaches clean and create awareness about the marine life that is being impacted by plastic pollution and littering in general. Slogans to protect endangered marine species, dugongs, in particular, to reduce plastic usage and stop littering were called out in both English and Tamil during the rally. Students then filled up several bags with plastic trash from the beach and the amount collected in a short time span of 20 minutes, took the students by surprise. The GoMBRT provided the students with t-shirts and caps.

Rally at Chinna Ervadi   Talk after the rally with enthusiastic students
Students cleaning Ervadi beach   Students cleaning Ervadi beach
Talk after the clean-up with students   Talk after the clean-up with students

Marine Exhibitions at Ramanathapuram (6- 8 Feb) and Tuticorin (Feb 13-15, 2018)

The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) organised exhibitions for school and college students for 3 days each at Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin to create awareness about the marine biodiversity of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve and the conservation status of the Marine National Park’s ecosystems. WII’s CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Team exhibited the project’s work at both exhibitions to carry the word of Dugong Conservation yet further. Facts on Dugongs and their biology were communicated in the form of banners and talks. The role of Dugongs as an umbrella species in the seagrass ecosystem and the significance of seagrasses in Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar waters were also discussed in detail. We also put on display a model of a SCUBA Diver to introduce this exciting yet important tool to explore marine life to young minds.  


CAMPA- Dugong Recovery Program exhibit in Ramanathapuram


CAMPA- Dugong Recovery Program exhibit in Tuticorin


Interacting with students at Tuticorin Marine Life Exhibition

  Interacting with students at Ramnathapuram Marine Life Exhibition
Interacting with students at Ramnathapuram Marine Life Exhibition   Interview for documentary by Care Earth Trust – NGO, Chennai, at Ramnathapuram Marine Life Exhibition
Students at Ramnathapuram Marine Life Exhibition   Interacting with Wildlife Warden, GOMMNP at Tuticorin Marine Life Exhibition
Students at Tuticorin Marine Life Exhibition    

Underwater marine biodiversity monitoring training for Range Forest Officers (January - 5th & 9th 2018)

Range Forest Officers from Mandapam Range and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) were given Marine Biodiversity monitoring training by the Wildlife Institute of India as part of CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Programme on the 5th and 9th of January, 2018. The programme included SCUBA diving sessions in the Mandapam group of islands of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, and discussion. These officers were sponsored by WII to be certified as open water SCUBA driver by PADI.

Forest range officers with CAMPA –WII Dugong team learning underwater marine biodiversity monitoring using SCUBA

Genetic sampling technique training to Tamil Nadu Forest Department (January 17, 2018)

Genetic sampling techniques to preserve tissue or DNA samples were introduced to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to facilitate sampling of stranded animals. Tissue sampling vials, along with the collection protocol were presented to the Wildlife Warden at Ramanathapuram Forest Department by the CAMPA- Dugong Recovery Team

Presenting the tissue sample kits to Range Forest Officer by GoM Wildlife Warden

Interactive session with Range Forest Officers and Snorkelling Training programme (January 27th & 28th 2018):

On a tour to Tamil Nadu as part of their training programme, 32 Range Forest Officers, a Divisional Forest Officer and two Assistant Conservators of Forest, from the Forest Training Academy, Maharashtra, and the Wildlife Warden, Ramanathapuram, were addressed by the CAMPA- Dugong Recovery Team at Ramanathapuram Forest Department Office. With an introduction to Dugongs and their biology, the CAMPA -Dugong Recovery Program was explained to them. A field visit to Krusadai Island in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park was organised on the next day to introduce them to field techniques like snorkelling and line transect surveys to monitor underwater marine biodiversity

Interactive session with Trainee Forest Range Officers from Maharashtra Academy
Interactive session with Trainee Forest Range Officers from Maharashtra Academy
Field visit with Trainee Forest Range Officers from Maharashtra Academy

Coastal Clean-up Rally and clean-up drive (January 30, 2018):

A coastal clean-up rally and beach clean-up programme was organised by the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) in association with the CAMPA-Dugong Recovery Program team, Wildlife Institute of India. The school students were made aware of biodiversity of coastal areas and apprised of the need to keep beaches clean and negative impacts of littering. All students pledged to stop usage of plastic, and more importantly, to not contribute to plastic pollution during the rally. Students enthusiastically collected plastic trash on the beach and collected large amounts of litter in a short time span.

CAMPA –WII Dugong team with Dugong Ambassadors for Coastal Clean-up Drive
Range Forest Officer talking to young Dugong Ambassadors about the importance of marine ecosystem
Young Dugong Ambassadors in action during coastal clean-up drive
Appreciation mementos to Young Dugong Ambassadors by WII-Dugong team and Forest officials during coastal clean-up drive