In the coming days, mosques and temples along the coastal areas of Kasaragod district will seek a collective pledge from the faithful to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles which turn up at their beaches for nesting every year.
Around a dozen mosques in the 22 km coastal stretch from Chittari to Thaikkadappuram will present sermons on the importance of turtle conservation as part of Friday prayers next week (6-12 January). Simultaneously, three prominent temples in the region will also direct devotees to take a vow to protect the flippered visitors.
A study by World Wildlife Fund on nesting activity of marine turtles along the Kerala coast in 2013 had identified harvesting of eggs for household consumption, poaching, turtles trapped in trawler and gill nets and indiscriminate mining of beach sand as major threats.
The faith initiative is being implemented by Naythal, a NGO which has successfully spearheaded turtle conservation in Kasaragod district, along with the Social Forestry Division of the state forest department.
"We have held preliminary discussions with representatives of Hindu and Muslim communities and both have wholeheartedly welcomed our proposal. The turtle conservation message will be delivered after Friday prayers in 12 mosques and pledges made by hundreds of devotees expected to gather at Ajanur Sree Kurumba temple, Sree Mookambika temple at Marakkappu and Aithala Alinkkal Devi for Sankrama on January 16," K Praveen Kumar, secretary of Naythal, said.
He said fishermen communities which used to poach turtle eggs and hunt it for meat have now become their protectors after several conservation initiatives were implemented, like the roping in of kadal kodathi (sea court), the centuries-old community justice system. "We decided to rope in mosques, temples and religious leaders in turtle conservation as messages from places of worship will have a powerful impact on the people's personal and social life," assistant conservator of forests, Jaya Madhavan, said adding that a meeting between forest department officials and temple authorities will be held on Thursday (January 2) to finalize the plans.
Also taking a cue from the success of kadal kodathi in turtle conservation in Kasaragod district, the forest department has decided to extend it to other districts in the state.