They may not know what ‘endangered’ means, but for the past 50 days, villagers of Devgad, in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district, devotedly stayed up all night to guard an Olive Ridley nesting site at Tambaldeg beach.
A local conservation project, with rudimentary operations a sandpit and a thatched hut has phenomenally contributed to the global movement to save the turtle. Every year, nests are spotted and looked after by villagers, and hundreds of hatchlings released into the sea a day after the eggs hatch.
The villager who points out a turtle nesting is rewarded with Rs 500.
It all started a decade ago, when educated locals realised that Sindhudurg coastline was a nesting ground for various species of turtles, recalls N.S. Daptardar, a professor at Kelkar College, Devgad. But very few of the endangered Olive Ridleys would reach maturity. “Hatchlings face danger from eagles, vultures, and stray dogs.”
Villagers are crucial because of their familiarity with the beaches. Sagar Maladkar, a village youth, roped in his family for the project. “Kasavs (turtle) must not die. We will protect them,” he says.