After a gap of over two decades, Olive Ridley turtles made an appearance on Mumbai’s Versova beach on Thursday morning. As many as 80 hatchlings of the endangered species of turtle were spotted in the city. This is the first time in the last 20 years when Olive Ridley turtles have been spotted on the Versova beach. The hatchlings were spotted by a group of volunteers who were engaged in the clean-up of the Versova beach. Upon spotting, the forest officials of the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit of the state mangrove cell were contacted.
Prashant Deshmukh, a range forest officer said, “We checked that the first batch of hatchlings was wading into the sea. Female turtles may have nested here a while back. Now, we can see that these babies have hatched from their eggs.” Afroz Shah, the leading man behind the Versova beach clean up said that a couple of months back, reports of an Olive Ridley coming to the beach had emerged and he was confident about the hatching and was expecting it for some time. Afroz Shah also took to micro-blogging site Twitter and wrote: “Week 127 . Fantastic news for Mumbai . We got back Olive Ridley Sea Turtle after 20 years. Historic moment Nested and Hatched at our beach. We facilitate their journey to ocean. Constant cleaning helps marine species. Marine conservation centre needed at @versovabeach”
A volunteer, who said that he was present at the Versova beach, was elated about the happening. He said, “I have seen something surreal… like a life-changing experience…I saw 80 Olive Ridley turtles walking back to the sea.”
Soon, the word spread and got the attention of various environmentalists and politicians. A former Congress Member of Indian Parliament Sanjay Nirupam tweeted about the turtles hatching at the Versova beach in Mumbai. Nirupam wrote: “A warm welcome to the latest migrants at #VersovaBeach, Mumbai. They are the loveliest guests in our city. God knows from where they have arrived. Congratulations to @AfrozShah1 for becoming host of these beautiful turtles.” Nirupam is the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee.
A marine biologist and former chief scientist of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Vinay Deshmukh says that one particular reason cannot be enough for the turtles to return. However, he believes that cleaning up of the beach is likely to be a factor. Deshmukh said, “When the water condition is good, they are likely to come at the end of the breeding season.”