When the phone rang two evenings ago, my screen read “Rabi-Orissa.” Through oceans of static I heard Rabi’s cheery greetings. But his news was not good. The last full moon tide brought high waves washing through Podampeta Village. Forty homes were swept away and the villagers had to move out.
Podampeta Village is located immediately north of the sand bar island where the arribada (mass nesting of olive ridley sea turtles) began on February 28 2012. During the arribada, an uncounted number of olive ridley turtles crawled up the shores close to Podampeta Village. Turtles were laying eggs within meters of the homes—one nest was even found inside a hearth!
Further down the beach, Michael Peters (World Wide Fund for Nature, Orissa) and his field assistants installed protective fencing around the nests in order to keep predators away.
Returning in April we joined Rabi and the village residents in disentangling hundreds of trapped sea turtle hatchlings. Other hatchlings did not get a chance to emerge from the sand above their nests, which was weighted down by great bundles of fishing net. Still other hatchlings wandered lost through the dimly lit village streets.
All are good reasons to develop a sea turtle education program based in Podampeta Village. Rabi, who heads the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee, wants to educate and train the children of Podampeta Village, beginning later this year. Michael Peters says he wants to hire field assistants from the village.
Hopefully their work will help to bring the down the mortality of sea turtle hatchlings in nesting seasons to come.