For the First Time In 20 Years, Olive Ridley Turtles Hatch on Versova Beach

For the First Time In 20 Years, Olive Ridley Turtles Hatch on Versova Beach
Hindustan Times

For the last few years, many Mumbaikars have been heading to Velas in Ratnagiri to experience the magical moment of tiny turtle hatchlings slowly making their way to the clear turquoise sea – a natural phenomenon that ceased to exist on the coast of Mumbai given its degrading quality of sea water and highly polluted beaches. However, for the first time in 20 years, 80 hatchlings of the endangered Olive Ridley turtle were spotted on Thursday morning at Versova beach, wading their way into the sea. Their return is being credited to the efforts led by Afroz Shah who has been regularly organising beach cleanups for the last 127 weeks.

The volunteers of the cleanup drive were the first people to spot the turtles. Surprised, they immediately called the forest officials to ensure that the turtles crawl to the sea without any hindrance. “One of the volunteers informed me around 8.30 am about the turtles and I rushed to the beach to see these little turtles going into the sea. A few months back, we had heard of an Olive Ridley coming to the beach. I knew that it would have come for hatching. So we were expecting this to happen sometime,” Afroz Shah, a young lawyer and the Versova beach cleanup crusader, told the Indian Express. He heralded this as a historical moment for Mumbai. Reportedly, a few curious children picked the turtles up to take them home, but Shah’s volunteers were able to retrieve them and lead them back to the water.

Female Olive Ridley Turtles, primarily found in warm and tropical waters usually come to the beach at the end of the winter during the night and lay almost 2-3 dozen eggs at a time in a pit. They then go back into the waters, never to return. The eggs are incubated by the heat of the sand and once they hatch, the tiny turtles’ instincts lead them towards the sea.

“While there cannot be one particular reason for the turtles to return to the shore, cleaning up of the beach could certainly be a factor that induced them. When the water condition is good, they are likely to come at the end of the breeding season,” Vinay Deshmukh, a marine biologist and former chief scientist of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), told the Indian Express.

The return of the Olive Turtles to the shore of Mumbai is being regarded as fantastic news, however, concerns are also being raised about their safety. “Care should be taken that the lights at the beach are made dimmer and the area cordoned off till the nesting period is fully over, as the human poachers are a threat to these turtles. Also, bright lights may confuse the young hatchlings,’’ reported Times Of India, quoting Environmentalist D Stalin.

Apart from concerns raised over their safety some also raised questions on the dubiousness of the event as no eggshells were found. According to the Indian Express report, Stalin sought investigation for the same. In his email to N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests, state Mangrove Cell, he wrote, “If the turtles have been brought from another site and released here it would qualify as an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act.”

To read the full report by The Indian Express, click here.

Feature Image Courtesy: The Hindustan Times

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