They were once on the verge of extinction, but marine turtles are now making a strong comeback. Taking things a step forward, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SGN), Chiplun, is organising a Turtle Festival at Velas, Ratnagiri district. On from February 21, the festival will allow nature enthusiasts to watch turtles make their way to the sea, after hatching from eggs, which have been laid on the shore. About 1,000 people are expected to turn up to see this natural event.
“We started this festival, which is now in its fourth year, as a means to create awareness about turtles as well as provide income to the locals,” says Bhau Katdare, SGN. The conservation activity, however, has been going on for over eight years on 30 beaches in Maharashtra and has seen 601 nests protected and more than 28,000 hatchlings released into the sea. The festival has been organised in association with the Kasav Mitra Manda, Velas, Gram Panchayat, Velas and the Forest Department.
Choosing the venue of the festival was pretty easy. Female turtles return to the same beach every year to lay eggs. Each turtle lays about 100 to 150 eggs, before heading back to the sea. The eggs incubate and hatch in about 55 days. They then make their journey to the sea. The hatchings can go on for several days. A good time to observe the hatchlings is three consecutive days from their emergence from the nests. Visitors need to be present at the beach at 7 am and 6 pm to watch volunteers release the hatchlings. They can participate in discussions held on the beach and talk about conservation. They can also visit the Marine Turtle Knowledge and Information Centre and the Marine Turtle Research Centre. Ten per cent of the money earned goes towards the Conservation Fund and is given to locals to ensure that they have an active source of income and help protect the marine creatures.