Want to save turtles? Go to Maharashtra

The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) has been organising a similar Turtle Festival in Ratnagiri district of central Konkan in February

Sindhudurg: The sleepy, fishing villages around this district will come alive for three days next week when scores of nature lovers gather at the popular nesting site of Vengurla beach bordering Goa for the Turtle Festival.

Around 100 nature enthusiasts will meet at Vengurla in Sindhudurg district, 425 km from Mumbai, for the Dec 27-30 festival, the first for the area.

The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) has been organising a similar Turtle Festival in Ratnagiri district of central Konkan in February for the past five years, with impressive results of saving over 35,000 turtle eggs.

Vengurla is a nesting site for seven varieties of turtles, including the Giant Sea Green turtles and the ever-popular Olive Ridleys, said Samit Bagayatkar, spokesperson for the Kirat Trust that has organised the event.

"The Vengurla beach near the Goa border every winter attracts a large number of turtles, which lay eggs on the desolate beaches here. For the past five years, some local naturalists led by Suhas Pohaskar are protecting them," Bagayatkar told IANS.

"This year, we decided to make it a community effort," he added.

The giant Sea Green Turtles measuring around 13 feet in length are rare, but Olive Ridleys, which can measure up to four feet, come here in large numbers during the nesting season that started in November and continues till February - depending on the weather.

Bagayatkar said it may not be possible to see the turtles as they quietly arrive during the night, lay their eggs and return to the Arabian Sea waters.

"Next morning, we find their eggs and we make all efforts to save them from all types of predators - the most dangerous being man," Bagayatkar said.

This year the villagers have got together and will offer lodging and boarding to the nature lovers and tourists expected to come for the Turtle Festival at the beach.

They will live in the villagers` homes, eat home-cooked food, go for sight-seeing and other activities, all for a nominal package of Rs.2,500 per head, he said.

A dolphin tour and a jungle night walk with the possibility of sighting panthers, huge wild boars, small varieties of deer, hedgehogs, porcupines and other creatures are amongst the activities.

"This year, the Maharashtra government will join the conservation efforts for turtles and will fund the projects initiated by us in and around Velas Beach in Ratnagiri," SNM chief Vishwas Katdare said.

The SNM organised festival sees visitors from abroad as well.


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