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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Schoolchildren on save Olive Ridleys mission

Children who used to raid Olive Ridley nests for eggs at a beach near Thrissur have turned saviours of the endangered species, thanks to an awareness campaign run by school authorities here.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2008 12:15 IST
Jeevan Mathew Kurian
Jeevan Mathew Kurian

Children who used to raid Olive Ridley nests for eggs at a beach near here have turned protectors of the endangered sea turtles, thanks to an awareness campaign by school authorities.

The turtles make annual visits to the beach near Chavakkad in Thrissur district. The town of Thrissur, which is the district headquarter, is 80 km north of the state's industrial hub Kochi.

"We started the awareness drive among children around five years back. Then children used to bring turtle eggs to school and sell them. The eggs were also openly sold in shops. People here consume boiled eggs," said NJ James, a teacher at Seethi Sahib Vocational Higher Secondary School at Edakkazhiyur.

The school, which has around 2,000 students, mostly belonging to coastal communities, is about five kilometres from the town of Chavakkad.

James, a biology teacher at the school, is the convener of the Habitat Harita Sena, the environmental club at the school. The club is spearheading conservation efforts.

"Instead of teaching about conservation from textbooks we thought about directly involving students in a conservation drive. We have the opportunity for this, as our area is one of the nesting places for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles," James told IANS.

Also, 11 lower primary schools and upper primary schools around this region have Turtle-tot Clubs, which aim at spreading the conservation message among tiny tots.

Three beaches in Kerala - Kolavippalam in Kozhikode district, Chavakkad in Thrissur and Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram - are known to be nesting places of Olive Ridley turtles.

"Chavakkad beach has an exposed section of around 100 metres with no sea walls and it has no Casuarina plantation. This may have made it a suitable place for nesting," said Nameer PO of the College of Forestry, Kerala Agriculture University.

Many people in this coastal area believe that the turtle eggs have medicinal value and could cure asthma. The shops here used to openly sell turtle eggs as people here were unaware that trading in turtle eggs would invite stringent punishment under the Wildlife Act.

But working through students, the Seethi Sahib School has succeeded in creating awareness among people about the significance of protecting turtles.

"We always inquire with students whether they have turtle eggs. Sometimes they bring the eggs to school to show us. We tell them not to take the eggs. We also make them take a pledge to protect the nests," said James.

The school has also distributed pamphlets through students among residents on the importance of protecting turtles.

"We also organised classes regularly in nearby schools to spread awareness about protecting the Ridleys," he added.

When it began the conservation drive, the school put up a banner on its bus to spread awareness that trading turtle eggs was illegal and punishable. But the banner had to be removed as parents objected.

Now, classes on turtle conservation are being conducted during parent teacher association meetings at the school.

The persistent campaign has also had an effect on people in the area.

"Now nobody is openly selling the turtle eggs here and the price of the eggs has also gone up. The eggs are priced at around Rs 8," said James.