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Awaiting Arribada
Published by Basudev Tripathy, 01 Aug 2004
The mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles (lepidochelys olivacea) along the coast of the eastern indian state of Orissa is affected by anthropogenic pressures. The six-kilometer beach at Rushikulya is an important roorkery that was the focus of this Rapid Action Project to protect the eggs, hatchlings and the habitat of the Olive Ridley Turtles.
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There is perhaps no mass-wildlife spectacle in India that is a stunning as the Olive Ridley turtles nesting on the beaches of Orissa. Every year, for a few days as winter wanes, these large and ancient reptilians haul themselves laboriously out of the water and lay hundreds of pearly white eggs into the sands of the coast. While this phenomenon happens across the coast of eastern India and even on the Andaman and Nicobar islands,
a few places such as Gahirmatha, Devi mouth and Rushikulya are the places where the arribada or mass arrivals happen. Rushikulya is the focus of this Rapid action project that the Wildlife Trust of India did with the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee at Ganjam. A team of committed youngsters showed what can be done to protect the beach from disturbances during nesting, clear it of litter, spread awareness and protect the eggs and hatchlings at times of maximum stress. What is important in this sort of an activity is the awareness component, as beach cleaning and turtle protection drives are nature conservation activities that any enthusiastic person can participate in, like bird watches, thereby helping build a community of conservationists in the long run.

All the species of the world’s marine turtles are threatened and this is why even small actions such as this done in one area for one year is important as a cog-in-the-wheel in the efforts to conserve marine chelonians. It also
shows what local youth inspired by conservation zeal, backed by science and with the support of the local community (in this case fisher folk) can achieve with very modest funding. What is critical is that such sets of people must come up for each beach each year and do their bit- and marine turtles can leave their eggs and potential hatchlings in the sand and return to the sea, knowing that they are in good hands.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director, WTI
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