CHENNAI: Over the last 15 years, Olive Ridleys, the species of Turtle spotted along the coast of Chennai has reduced by over 50 per cent. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed Sunday morning saw a troop of volunteers cleaning up the shores, ridding the Marina stretch off filth that gets washed up. The egg-hatching season is almost here, and work has begun in full-swing for these young volunteers.
“Climate change is an obvious and continuous impact on our ecosystem. We are doing what little we can to help shield the effects, but it is a bigger process,” says Younus a volunteer of E-zone who had been working with the Forest Department since 2014 to effect Ridley conservation.
The group has mobilized weekly beach clean ups from Neelankarai beach, through Besant Nagar upto Marina. School and college goers along with companies who sign up through their Facebook page or website at Turtle Talks, will be busy till March setting up a perfect hatching space for the Ridleys. “Its important to the story of the turtles, not just do the turtle walks. We explain how it works, and how it can conserve the species which is disappearing. We teach volunteers things like how to identify nests even 50 centimetre under sand and collect eggs without disturbing the space,” says Younus who works through the week as a Freelancer and dedicates weekend mornings to this, along with two others - Hafiz and Edward.
Last year the group managed to pick up 90,000 turtle eggs. “We put back 80,000 baby turtles in the sea,” says
Younus. “Some of them brought their friends, wives and even old parents this week,” he says of the 250 volunteers who turned up on Sunday who put on the gloves and got down to cleaning the Marina stretch. The post-flood retrieves have been especially massive - coconuts, wilted flowers remnants of Pujas, a mass of plastic covers, food waste and bottes are the usual.
As for those volunteers who give up or leave too soon? “We want to think positive things about people. Maybe they’re helping out elsewhere and decided to help us one for a week. I’m just glad they came and learnt about the issue,” says Younus. The group has also collaborated with State Forest Department in sourcing information about Ridleys like weight, pallor, measurements etc on an international forum so it helps conservationists.