Tourism to Encourage Conservation of Endangered Turtles

There are seven recognized species of sea turtle. All seven species of sea turtles are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Threats to sea turtles today include the harvesting of their eggs for human consumption, entanglement and entrapment in fishing gear, ingestion of litter and coastal development.

On the coastal parts of Eastern India, several mother turtles turn up on the beaches to lay eggs. It is quite an effort to locate where the eggs are laid as the mother turtle burrows many holes before actually laying the eggs in a particular spot. It takes a fair amount of understanding to actually locate the right hole.

Turtles are an endangered species, and protecting the eggs become an important necessity. However, most people were not aware or unconcerned of the increasing threats to the eggs from predators (eagles, jackals, dogs, hyenas) and humans.

Pradeep Nath (Founder of VSPCA: Vishaka Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) took it on himself to protect the eggs. After several years of struggle and taking requisite permissions from the forest department, Pradeep started the Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF), a 24 member team of extensively trained local fishermen and volunteers who comb the beaches night and day on patrol, fervently protecting the turtle rookeries from predators, poachers and generally careless beachgoers. The force protects not only the turtle eggs and the hatchlings, but also the mother turtles that come to nest.

The STPF has now achieved success in ex-situ protection (refers to shifting the eggs to a protected hatchery, where they are safe from predators and careless beach walkers) as compared to the in-situ protection (refers to protecting the turtle eggs without relocating them to another area).

There are increasing challenges too for this project to be 100% successful, dredging, land grabbing is a serious issue, an increasing awareness campaign among local citizens and tourists may help in combating the issue.

It is a wonderful sight to watch the baby turtles when they are carefully released back to the sea. This is a great example of Responsible tourism as well.

Tourists should be encouraged to support VSPCA in its efforts ( given the efforts they make to not only keep the Sea Turtle protection program running for the last 15 years, but also several other programs for various animals including running a shelter for rescued animals including wild animals (The Kindness Farm), feeding stray dogs and street dwellers, and so on.

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