Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers
Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.
At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.
Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the worlds largest beach cleanup project over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.
The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.
Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings in a container as they are helped by wildlife conservationists to reach the Arabian Sea on Versova beach in Mumbai. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen, he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.
He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, making sure not one hatchling suffered a death, he said.
The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, Sign up here for a weekly emailed roundup from this series He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was