In India, a turtle is one of the avatars of Vishnu and as such is a mystical figure. But as in others countries, these animals are endangered as their eggs, meat and skin are valuable products either to eat, as an aphrodisiac or for the production of oil. The olive ridley sea turtle is one of the victims of this demand. Populations of the medium-sized turtle, which nests on tropical coastlines all over the tropics, have plummeted. But one Indian NGO is trying to protect the sea-turtle by working with villages along the west coast between the villages of Velas and Dabhol.
Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) is working to conserve the turtles by providing locals with alternative incomes through ecotourism and by educating children in schools. Tourists visit the area to see the amazing sight of sea turtles emerge from the water to lay and bury their eggs. As no tourism infrastructure exists there, visitors stay with locals in their homes. Litter patrols also survey the beaches for plastic bags, which the turtles mistake for their favorite food - the jellyfish.
A film by Bettina Thoma-Schade