For the first time in twenty years, turtles have hatched at Versova beach in Mumbai after a major beach clean-up drive.
Versova beach, on Mumbai’s north-west coast, had previously been one of India’s capital’s dirtiest beaches. The piles of plastic waste in some places had reached as much as 1.67m in height. This had made it impossible for turtles to cross the beach, either for laying their eggs or for making their way to the sea after hatching. Lawyer and environmental activist, Afroz Shah, initiated the clean-up Versova beach drive in 2015, and, three years and five million kg of rubbish later, around 80 newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles were observed making their way into the sea.
The hatchlings were spotted on 22nd March 2018 by a group of volunteers, including Mr Shah, who were engaged in cleaning the beach. They contacted forest officials who then ensured the turtles had a smooth passage into the sea.
Week 127 .
Fantastic news for Mumbai .
We got back Olive Ridley Sea Turtle after 20 years. Historic moment
Nested and Hatched at our beach. We facilitate their journey to ocean.
Constant cleaning helps marine species.
Marine conservation centre needed at @versovabeach pic.twitter.com/j79xCKamNh
— Afroz Shah (@AfrozShah1) March 22, 2018
Olive Ridley turtles, also known as the Pacific Ridley, is a medium-sized turtle mostly found in tropical and warm waters. Females will return to the beach where they themselves hatched in order to lay their eggs, so it is possible that the recently hatched eggs at Versova beach were laid by a female who was part of the last recorded hatching there, twenty years ago. The Olive Ridley is classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, with its population believed to have declined between 31 and 36% worldwide over the last forty years.
The return of turtles to Mumbai is a perfect illustration of the positive effect that humans can have on vulnerable wildlife through activities such as clean-up drives. But more can still be done to help. As the main threat to the species is human interference – such as unsustainable egg collection and the slaughter of nesting females for their meat and hides – a conservation centre at Versova beach would help to protect any Olive Ridley turtles who use the nesting ground in the future.
Header image © Brad Flickinger via Creative Commons licence.