Four species of sea turtles have been nesting on the beaches of Andaman and Nicobar Islands long before the islands started getting inhabited by the settler communities. The Islands are currently the only remaining site in India, where leatherback turtle nesting happens. In the recent years, there has been an alarming rise in developmental and tourism activities in the islands, resulting in plans to open up areas in the islands that are key nesting and foraging sites for sea turtles. Through our project, we aim to engage and sensitize all the stakeholders in the islands regarding the importance of the turtles and the need to conserve these charismatic animals.
I have been working towards the conservation and protection of sea turtles for the last 21 years, since the age of 11. Since my fascination for sea turtles started at a very young age, over the last two decades I have learnt the nuances of research, management and conservation of sea turtles. Through my involvement in scientific research projects I have learnt the importance of sharing the knowledge, including the local communities and stakeholders in the management and conservation plans. The global decline of sea turtles, the uniqueness of the islands as important turtle nesting sites, the need to conserve these species and how individual contribution can go a long way in their protection, are the important aspects of my work that I intend to relay to the community.
Upon receiving the TPP seed grant, our focus was to engage with the general public on all the issues related to the protection of sea turtles. It gave me the opportunity to carry out outreach programs targeting schools and colleges and in order to increase awareness. The grant has helped us reach out to a wider audience and we intend to expand on this over other regions.
The follow up grant allows us expand and continue on our previous objectives. To date, most of our outreach was focused on training and conducting workshops for the staff of the State Forest Department. Although we plan to continue working with the Forest Department, we also plan to engage with education institutions and other stakeholders in the islands through our awareness activities and outreach programs in important turtle nesting sites.