After conservationists toil hard, beach in Karnataka's Kundapur awaits sea turtles for nesting

10:47 AM Dec 10, 2022 | PTI |

When Kundapur, the coastal town in Udupi district of Karnataka, organised the ‘Aame Habba’ (turtle festival) in April this year, the local people were rejoicing the valiant efforts of enthusiastic volunteers and conservationists who have been protecting sea turtle eggs over the years on the nearby Kodi beach.


Discussions on climate change, conservation of marine animals and the campaign to clean beaches were held in the festival organised at Kodi beach.

Olive Ridley turtles, an endangered marine species notified under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, have made the Kodi beach area in Kundapur as their nesting point for many years.

However, they shied away from the shore for a few years since 2014, with the beach between Kodi and Beejadi in Kundapur getting clogged with waste.

The ‘Clean Kundapur Project’, started in 2019, and its volunteers along with members of Field Services and Inter-Cultural Learning India (FSL India) now clear the waste from the Kodi beach every Sunday to keep it pristine to welcome the guests from the sea who come here to lay eggs during the season.


Reef Watch, a marine conservation organisation based in Mumbai, and the Karnataka government’s forest department also help in the efforts of the volunteers.

”We are expecting more sea turtles to arrive this season between November and February as the beach is kept clean. So far, only one gravid sea turtle was washed ashore which was apparently hit by the propeller of a fishing boat,” Bharath Bangera, lead volunteer in the ‘Clean Kundapur Project’ told PTI.

A post-mortem was done on the turtle by Reef Watch and the forest department personnel have collected 124 eggs from the turtle and kept it in a safe hatchery created on the beach.

Another turtle was also found dead on nearby Beejadi beach, but an autopsy could not be performed as it was highly decomposed, he said.

Bangera wants the state government to declare the area in and around Kodi beach as a turtle nesting hotspot to keep away fishing trawlers stationed near the shores. The movement of trawlers is visibly nearer to the shore though they are supposed to carry out fishing in deep sea, he claimed.

Shantanu Kalambi, project manager of Reef Watch, also said clean beaches will attract more turtles to nest on the beach.

On climate change affecting turtle arrivals, he said it has definitely had an effect on the turtle population. ”One such effect is increased ratios of female to males hatching from eggs,” Kalambi told PTI.

Turtles have historically been nesting on the beach. However, during construction of anti-erosion walls and piers, not many could find their way to nest on the beach, he said.

Bangera said the Kodi beach is being cleaned every week by volunteers who collect 500 to 600 kg of waste on a day. They choose a 200-metre stretch every Sunday and clean the area. Hundreds of volunteers are now enthusiastically taking part in the project, he said.

A whopping 12,000 kg of plastic and rubber footwear was collected from a 200-metre stretch of Kodi beach on seven Sundays during November-December last year. ”This shows the devastating impact plastic pollution has on ocean life,” he said.

Olive Ridleys did not visit Kundapur from 2014 to 2020, apparently due to the plastic pollution on the beach. They lay eggs on the beach in the cover of the night, bury them in the sand and go back to sea. Once they are hatched, the tiny turtles find the way to their original home.

Conservationists, including members of FSL India, took up the issue after the eggs were being carelessly destroyed by local people and beach visitors. They set up hatcheries and by forming groups of volunteers, took turns guarding the eggs until they hatched and are sent back to sea.

Bangera said they hope to find at least 10 nesting sites on the beach this season. ”The turtles lay around 100 eggs each at the site they choose on the beach where temporary hatcheries are created by volunteers who guard them until they are hatched and released back into the sea,” he said.

The project volunteer said more than 1,000 eggs each were found at different sites on the beach in the last two years.

Uday Nayak, deputy conservator of Forest, Kundapur division, said the department is considering creation of a turtle conservation reserve in the region. The work is already on in Kundapur to protect and conserve the sea turtles arriving there, he said.

FSL India, which is active in the conservation of turtles, are forming local groups to guard the nesting sites across the beach.

Hatcheries are created after finding the nests and the volunteers protect the eggs by keeping vigil during the nights by sleeping close to the nests for six to seven weeks till the hatchlings are released into the sea, a volunteer of FSL India said.

FSL India volunteers had discovered nine nesting sites on the Kodi beach area during the season last year with around 120 eggs at each place. The hatching rate was above 90 percent. Volunteers had saved around 16,000 sea turtles in Kodi in the past 17 years, he said.

Bangera says the ‘Clean Kundapur Project’ has had a positive impact on the people for keeping the beaches clean of plastic waste. Similar cleaning drives are being taken up now on beaches in Dakshina Kannada district also including Tannirbhavi and Panambur near Mangaluru.

The ‘Clean Kundapur Project’ campaign reads like a poem. ”To those quite shores she returns, the call of motherhood beckons her to travel. Travel she does, to the same shores she was born.

”She buries her eggs, hundreds in number, hiding from the predators and blessing them with life.

”The safety lies in their numbers, she knows. She hopes that someday they shall come here too. The very same beach where they were born.

”She heads back to the water, silently saying her thanks to all those who still kept the beaches pristine.”


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