A Unique Maharashtrian Festival Is Trying To Save Endangered Turtles

A Unique Maharashtrian Festival Is Trying To Save Endangered Turtles
Adventures 365

The human race is notorious for its capacity for destruction. In the millenia we’ve inhabited the Earth we’ve razed a path of death for thousands of indigenous species with urbanisation and unchecked deforestation. India itself has always been a hub for wildlife of all sorts but suffers from the same affliction as the rest of the world. One of the many targets has been the Olive Ridley turtle, native to the Western coast and in particular, Maharashtra. Over the course of time, these native reptiles have come to the brink of extinction due to overfishing but a rise in eco-awareness and sustainability has seen massive efforts to ensure that their situation doesn’t worsen.

One of the most well known and frequented initiatives is the Velas Turtle Festival, held every year on the beaches of Velas village in Ratnagiri. Turtles as amniotes lay eggs in which their young gestate and then hatch, the hatchlings then make their way to the sea to join the rest of their kin. Locals had developed a habit of stealing and eating the eggs but in 2002, NGO Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) set up a project to put an end to this practice and give the hatchlings a fighting chance.

In collaboration with the NGO, locals help to collect the eggs from the beach and transfer them to artificial hatcheries where they’re monitored til they hatch. The babies are then released onto the beach twice a day where people are encouraged to visit and watch their determined march towards the Arabian Sea. By turning the process into a tourist opportunity, SNM has managed to raise awareness and funds to support the rehabilitation of these beautiful creatures.

While in the village to view the hatching, we suggest you stay with a local family for a truly authentic experience. A homestay system was set up in place in 2010, with 20-odd families have signing up to host the 3,000 odd visitors that come for the festival. You’ll get to sample traditional Konkan fare and also contribute to the welfare of the village. In between hatchings, take a moment to visit the nearby attractions like the Harihareshwar Temple and the Bankot Fort to round off a visit that’s the new hallmark of Indian eco-tourism.

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