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APOWA: Action for Protection of Wild Animals (Orissa, India)

Source: Bijaya Kumar Kabi, Director, Action for Protection of Wild Animals (APOWA)

Photos:



Olive Ridley sea turtles use a wide range of habitats (sandy beaches, coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves etc.), thus playing a critical role for the conservation of the oceans' ecosystems and diversity. Many of these habitats face mounting threats today. Sea turtles are also an important part of the traditional culture of many coastal indigenous peoples. The major threats to these species in Orissa are destruction of nesting habitat though coastal development, seashore pollution by coastal inhabitants, incidental catch by commercial fishermen in shrimp trawls and gillnets, high predation by feral animals, bright illuminating light during hatching which disorients young hatchlings.
 

Over the years, APOWA (Action for Protection of Wild Animals) has been working for the conservation of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles and their habitat along the Orissa coast. With our sustained campaign and commitment, combined strongly with field protection, networking with fishermen communities and comprehensive innovative awareness campaigns, the result has been advantageous. Sea turtles are umbrella species: their protection as well as preservation of their habitat helps to protect a number of other species that depend on the same habitat.

In the first week of March this year, the spectacular mass-nesting of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles commenced at Gahirmatha and Rushikullya sea turtle rookery in Orissa. The sporadic nesting, which began one month earlier on unprotected adjacent beaches, went almost unnoticed. The endangered species which comes en-masse to these places, rarely turns up in such large numbers anywhere else on the planet.

 

In recent years, regular 'arribada' beaches have fortunately received a lot of attention and protection, however sporadic nesting sites are overlooked leaving the eggs and hatchlings susceptible to many dangers.

We are focusing on non-protected areas and on protecting nesting turtles there, as the majority of the nests get predated by feral animals and people. The sporadic nesting contributes equally to that of mass nesting of turtles; hence it is highly necessary that sporadic nests are protected.
 

 


Operational Area and Summary of Activities Undertaken

The operational area is situated south of the Gahirmatha sea turtle rookery in Orissa, known for world’s largest Olive Ridley turtle nesting and breeding ground. The project field works are in the buffer zone of Gahirmatha: viz. Pentha, Sandhakud, Paradeep urban beach, and Siali.

During the period from January to March 2011, the following field work was undertaken by Action for Protection of Wild Animals.

A. Community Participation in Sea turtle Conservation

Local communities associated with sea turtles and their habitats are often a strong force in the conservation of sea turtle populations and their habitats. This well-considered innovative model directly engages local community participation and has proven extremely successful.

Formation of Monitoring Units
To enhance effective beach patrols, protection of sea turtles and habitat management through community-based monitoring, units have been formed at nesting sites. Members from the fishing community, educated youth, as well as local and village leaders have been selected as members of the monitoring committee. The committee has been monitoring the entire programme for the season and meetings have been held every month to review the work and update the progress of the work. APOWA has been facilitating the monitoring units by providing equipment for members.

Training
Ongoing training is provided to all members of the monitoring units, turtle guards and staff. Additional training has been provided for beach patrollers on skills in accommodating turtle watching, while at the same time preserving best practices with regard to protection of nesting turtles. A total of 28 members and 6 turtle guards participated in two training camps. All participated in the learning experience and the community beach patrollers took great pride in their role as guides and interpreters.
 

Name of the Monitoring Units Geographical operation Total number of members
Dolagovinda Jew Turtle Protection Committee Siali, Jagatsinghpur 16
Banabihari Jew Turtle Protection Committee Pentha, Kendrapara 12

 

Patolling of turtle nesting beach by turtle guards.
Nest and Turtle Protection

A large part of our work is devoted to direct protection of the turtles and their nests. Six persons from the seaside villages have been appointed as turtle guards. They have been protecting the turtles and their nests from feral dogs, jackals, wild boar and other wild and domestic animals.

The turtle guards have been working in close association with monitoring units and local volunteers at the nesting sites. They have been monitoring the nesting beaches to record sporadic nesting and to rescue nests from predation.

 




B. Sea Turtle Awareness Programme

The purpose of the programme is to inform people and children of the complex biology of sea turtles, their role in local ecosystems, and the importance of managing threats to their survival with the aim of ensuring stable populations and sustainable use options for the future. The education component is envisioned to include initiatives such as informal meetings with villagers, workshops, public presentations, class room teaching, publication and distribution of educational materials, fieldtrips and camps for children etc.

Community Events
Sea turtle educational progarmme organised for villagers.As part of the community-based sea turtle conservation programme, community events have been organized at different coastal villages. Members of surrounding communities were routinely invited and encouraged to participate in the programme. The participants were given hands-on training in various aspects of sea turtle conservation and protection measures. Villagers were also educated on community benefits involving sea turtles as a resource. Each awareness programme also consisted of an open discussion with the community members, groups by the team members as well as invited guest lectures.
 

Venue of the Community Events Number of Participants
Siali, Jagatsinghpur 84
Sandhakud,Paradeep 73

 

Sea Turtle Exhibition
A five day-long exhibition about sea turtles, from 15 to 19 March 2011, was organized at Pentha beach. It featured a sea turtle poster and banner exhibition, sea turtle debates with school students, turtle sand art, and education about marine pollution. We also created an awareness campaign through sand sculpture at Pentha beach, comprising many sandy eggs from which hatching takes place and a mother turtle giving a message: “Save my baby”. This great focus on sea turtle conservation brought many people in. These activities reached thousands of people, visitors, and many schools from around the coastal villages on a daily basis.
 

Sea turtle exhibition camp organised at Pentha. Sand sculpture on sea turtle created for conservation awareness generation



Sea Turtle Education Programmes in Schools

APOWA continues to focus very much on the education of children inside the classroom though its Schools Programme, which is designed to help teachers and students (and through them, their families) not only learn about sea turtles, but to inspire involvement in conservation efforts. Nesting beach cleans-ups also involve hundreds of children and were very popular with residents.

Name of the School Total number of Participants
1. Bhabagrahi Vidyapitha, Lanjuda-Kaitala, Mahakalpara block of Kendrapara district. 86
2. Balya Vikash School, Kaltunga, Mahakalpara, Kendrapara 150
3. Chakada High school, Chakada-Gogua, Mahakalpada,Kendrapara 162
4. USAK High School, Kedrapara district 128

 

Sea turtle educational programme organised for school students of coastal villages.
Educational Materials

Outreach involves teaching people (residents and visitors) about sea turtles, and involving them in conservation efforts. The educational resource materials were very popular among children and adults, and served as effective teaching aids and promotional tools. Signs were also placed in nesting beaches at Siali, Pentha, Paradeep, Sandhakud etc.

 
 

* * * * *


Please Support our Work

Please support APOWA’s community-based sea turtle and habitat conservation programme. It provides for desperately-needed conservation programmes, nest and habitat protection, as well as vital fishermen education at the world's largest olive ridley nesting sites of the region. The organization has legally registered with the Indian Income Tax Act 1961 under the sections 12A, 80G. Under the Section 12A, the organization is exempt from taxes levied on funds and donations received from national or foreign sources. We warmly welcome your contribution!


Contact us at:

Action for Protection of Wild Animals (APOWA)
Village- Hatapatana, P.O.-Kadaliban, Dist.-Kendrapara,
Orissa, Pin-754222, India

Tel.: +916729 221908,
E-mail: mail@apowa.org, apowa1999@yahoo.co.in
URL: www.apowa.org, www.apowa.org.in

   
 
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