Turn of the Turtles – Olive Ridley Turtle Conservation Project, Velas, Maharashtra
Famed for its efforts in conservation of endangered Olive Ridley turtles at Velas beach, Ratnagiri – near an eco-friendly as well as eco-conscious village, The Velas Turtle Festival is an annual ecotourism festival.
Velas Turtle Festival is a famous ecotourism festival which helps in the conservation of endangered Olive Ridley turtles at Velas beach in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra . An NGO named Sahyadri Nisargmitra and the villagers committee has taken the initiative to conserve these Olive Ridleys by providing protection to their eggs from potential threats. The locals here actively participate in this project and work extremely hard to protect the little hatchlings.
According to a study conducted in Orissa, it is estimated that only 1 of the 1000 hatchlings make it to adulthood. Also, even the slightest change in the environment or pollution at their nesting sites may result in the female turtles abandoning the sites and not returning back in order to lay eggs. Hence, the stakes for conservation of this fragile species and its nesting sites is higher today than it was in the past. During the nesting season, the mother turtles lay their eggs on beaches by digging up pits up-to 2 meters deep and lay about 50 to 100 eggs at time. This usually happens after sunset. So the beach is closed for tourists between 6:30 pm and 6:00 am every day to cause no hindrance in the egg laying process. The mother turtle then covers up the nest with sand and leaves the babies on their own. During this period, the baby turtles are exposed to various predators like jackals, hyenas, monitor lizards, birds of prey, crabs and dogs lurking around and waiting to feed on them.
To prevent this, the locals and other members of the Sahyadri Nisargmitra mandal have created artificial fences. In these fences, all the eggs collected from the nests are laid in similar nest like pits which are artificially created inside an enclosed protected area and usually covered with a cane basket. This helps in protecting and patrolling the eggs till they hatch. As the hatching period comes closer, the nests are
checked daily for any early hatchlings and then a safe passage way is created for them from the nests to the sea. The eggs take about 45 days to hatch and then the little ones march towards the mighty ocean. What exactly happens after the the baby turtles boldly take on the waves is known to none. Some may perish along the way and some may return back to this same beach in a couple of years to lay their eggs,
hence welcoming a brand new generation and ensuring that the species survive.