In this episode, Sharada Balasubramanian set off to Vanagiri, a small fishing village, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamilnadu.
Every year, Olive Ridley turtles come here for nesting, all the way from Orissa. Local people say that in recent years, the turtle population has been declining. Also, the arrival of these turtles are now varying. In the last decade, shift to modern fishing practices, like use of destructive nets, are one among many reasons why this vulnerable species is at risk. Propellers in the boats often injure the turtles, and also leads to fatalities.
In Vanagiri, a fisherman, Kutti Andi has been working on the conservation of turtles from 2009. He was roped in by the forest department to do this. Every year, Kutti Andi collects turtle eggs and keeps them safe until they hatch. After the turtle eggs hatch, he releases the little ones into the sea.
Earlier, eggs were destroyed by fishermen, or even consumed by the local people. Now, with increased awareness and knowledge, local people having been coming together to collect these eggs. They safeguard the eggs until hatching. Training programmes were done by MSSRF along with the fisheries department, forest department, panchayat, and local people. The fishermen were told that for the fishes to breed, oceans need to clean, and if oceans need to be clean, turtles should be protected, as these turtles cleaned the oceans. Knowing the impacts of plastic on these turtles and on marine life, fishermen have also taken concrete steps. They have stopped taking plastic water packets to the sea.
Conscious and concerted efforts through integration and collaboration from the forest department, fisheries department, NGO, panchayat, along with fishermen communities has bettered conservation of turtles in Vanagiri.