Ratnagiri (Maharashtra), Feb 1: The birth of two Olive Ridley turtles heralded the start of this year’s turtle breeding season in the coastal Konkan region, an official said here Friday.
The hatchlings were spotted early Friday morning and welcomed with cheers and shouts of “Happy Birthday” by the villagers and environmental activists who had gathered there. More turtles were likely to emerge later in the day.
With this, the annual Turtle Festival in Velas in Ratnagiri will be held from February 9 till the end of the breeding season, said Vishwas Bhaut Katdare, chief of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM).
Increasing the scope of turtle conservation, the programme this year has been taken up in 45 villages spread across Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts comprising the full Konkan belt in the state, he said.
The Maharashtra forests department, environment department, United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF), SNM and other groups have joined to implement the programme, now in its tenth year.
This year, 29 turtle nests, including nine in Velas fishing village, have been protected and the hatchlings have started emerging from the eggs.
Katdare said that from this year, all arrangements for the Turtle Festival have been handed over to village groups under the Kasav Mitra Mandal.
“This season (2012-13), the festival will be in four beaches of the Konkan region — at Diveagar, Maral, Harihareshwar, Velas and Mochemad. This is due to the increase in number of domestic and foreign tourists and nature-lovers arriving for the festival,” Katdare said.
However, as in the past, Velas will be the venue for the main festival till the end of the breeding season, while at other venues, festivals will be organised at the height of the breeding season, he said.
In the past decade, SNM has protected 756 Olive Ridley turtle nests and released around 33,000 hatchlings in the Arabian Sea.
Besides playing an important environmental role, the initiative has also provided gainful livelihood to villages in the form of eco-tourism and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation also promoting the festival this year.