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Konkan Turtle Festival draws domestic, foreign tourists

March 13, 2010

The second Konkan Turtle Festival-2010 has got off to a flying start with over 375 Olive Ridley turtles released in the Arabian Sea during the past four days.

The festival, conducted jointly by the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) and Kasav Mitra Mandal (KMM), will be on till March 28 in Velas Sea Village in Ratnagiri.

“During this 29-day festival, we hope to release nearly 1,000 Olive Ridley hatchlings in the sea. But, during the entire (ongoing) nesting season, we shall release over 2,500 hatchlings,” SNM secretary Bhau Katdare told IANS.

According to Katdare, after the Orissa coast, the Konkan coast of western India has become the most important nesting site for the large Olive Ridley turtles. They are also found in smaller numbers on the Goa and Tamil Nadu coasts.

In view of the large scale poaching of the Olive Ridleys here and theft of eggs, the SNM initiated the turtle conservation project in 2002 with considerable success.

“In the past seven years, we have released over 25,000 hatchlings into the Arabian Sea. As part of the conservation efforts, the SNM and KMM also started the Konkan Turtle Festival last year which has proved very popular among the tourists,” he said.

This year, more than a thousand tourists, including many foreigners, landed in and around Velas coastal village.

They are provided basic accommodation at nominal rates by the local villagers on the beach to enable them view and photograph the tiny turtles flipping out to the sea.

According to another SNM office-bearer, the Konkan has been an old nesting site for the Olive Ridleys which can weigh up to 70 kg.

“However, in the past, poachers lay in wait for the large females and killed them on the beach. They would also unearth the eggs – around 150 in each nest – and sell them in the local markets for around Rs.5 per egg,” Joshi said.

However, after the SNM stepped into the picture, poaching has become non-existent and its volunteers keep an eye on all nests.

As soon as the female lays eggs and goes away, the SNM removes and transports them to a dedicate nesting site away from poachers and natural predators.

After they are hatched, they are released almost a hundred feet away from the shoreline from where the babies flip their way to the waters.

“This is done to ensure that the local geo-magnetic waves are permanently embedded in the turtles’ brain as the females will return to the same nesting site to lay their eggs as their mother did,” said Katdare.

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