Beach Clean Up Results In First Hatchlings Of Turtles In Decades

Posted on June 4th 2018

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For the first time in decades, hatchlings from a vulnerable species of turtle have been seen on Mumbai beach that has been cleaned up by a massive operation staffed by volunteers. Recently approximately 80 Olive Ridley turtles found their way into the Arabian Sea from their nests on Versova beach. The hatchlings were protected from feral dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who stayed overnight to ensure they made it into the ocean.

A remarkable success story

Versova beach is a true success story and something the United Nations describes as “the world’s largest beach clean-up project”. Over the last couple of years, the beach has been transformed from a rubbish yard to an almost completely pristine piece of coastline. The man who led the charge is a lawyer named Afroz Shah. Mr Shah says he began to anticipate there would be turtle hatchlings a few months a go when farmers on the Southern part of the 3 kilometre beach said they saw turtles in the sand.

Something important was going to happen

Mr Shah says the minute he received that news he instantly knew something important was going to happen. Then some of his volunteers called to inform him that they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles hatching in their nests and he immediately contacted the forest department. Mr Shah then paid a visit to the beach with about 25 other volunteers and stood guard whilst the tiny turtles made their way slowly across the sand. Mr Shah says the group made sure that not a single hatchling died.

A sight for sore eyes

The Olive Ridley species of turtles is the smallest but most abundant species of turtle in the seas. Nevertheless, it is still classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN. Mother turtles lay their eggs in a huge mass-nesting process that is referred to as arribada. In Odisha which is a state on the East coast of India a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously. Though the species has been known to nest in other parts of Mumbai, not a single one has been seen on Versova beach for decades because of its massive pollution problem. Mr Shah said he was enormously gratified at the sight of the turtles making their way to the ocean and it brought tears to his eyes.

Teaching people to live sustainably

For over two years Mr Shah has been spearheading a volunteer effort that manually picked up rubbish from the beach and teaching villagers in the area to lead more sustainable less polluting lives. About 55,00 people live along this beach and the waterways that make their way into it, which feeds the megacity of Mumbai. Mr Shah said he led by example offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish before seeking help.  Mr Shah said that for the first couple of months no one lent a hand, then two men approached him and politely asked him if they could join. When that happened Mr Shah knew his project would be a success.

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