Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection CommitteeÂ
The Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC) plays a pivotal role in sea turtle conservation among at the important site of Rushikulya. Some of the truly motivated village boys of Purunabandha village adjoining the Rushikulya sea turtle rookery have formed a small group and named RSTPC with the assistance of turtle biologist Dr. Bivash Pandav in 1998.
The Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee is a non-government non-profit organisation working at Purunabandha village, Ganjam which is adjacent to the Rushikulya sea turtle rookery functioning since 1998 and registered under the Society Registration Act, 1860. RSTPC has a total membership of 50, which includes members mostly from the village Purunabandha, and majorities are from fishing communities.
Current activities of RSTPC are undertaken in collaboration with other organisations and agencies which include the Forest Department, Orissa, Dakshin Foundation, Bangalore, Wildlife Institute of India, Greenpeace, World Turtle Trust, Wildlife Society of Orissa, People for Animals and the Wildlife Trust of India. Members of RSTPC who have been trained by wildlife experts serve as research assistants, working in collaboration with scientists such as Dr. Bivash Pandav, Dr. Basudev Tripathi, Dr. Kartik Shanker, Dr. C.S. Kar and researchers such as Suresh Kumar and Divya Karnad.
The members of RSTPC have begun to monitor the nesting population and also assist in the release of hatchlings during mass hatching along the Rushikulya coast. We have also encouraged tourists, locals and especially children to participate in the collection and release of disoriented hatchlings as a part of our awareness programmes. Members also assist in collecting data and collaborate with researchers to provide logistic support and field staff. Towards this end, they are trained in the latest data collection and monitoring/survey methods.
Olive ridley sea turtle monitoring:
The current projects of RSTPC include data collection from the tagging of turtles, recapture studies, distribution of the mating congregation, satellite transmitter ranging studies and monitoring hatchling mortality rates.
Rescue and reorientation of hatchlings on beaches affected by artificial lighting:
At Rushikulya beach, hatchlings often get disoriented due to artificial lighting. RSTPC members have therefore involved themselves in collecting the hatchlings in buckets and then releasing them in the ocean. Recently, a net has been placed along the beach to enable easy collection of hatchlings.
By putting up stalls and creating sculptures of turtles, RSTPC has made its presence felt at Gopalpur Beach festival in recent years. The V.J. Sheth Memorial Sea Turtle Interpretation Centre has been set up by RSTPC (courtesy the Eastern Shipping Corporation, Mumbai), which aims to increase public awareness about sea turtles and conservation programmes. For the locals, the turtle is sacrosanct as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Education and awareness materials are also provided by RSTPC to local school children and organisations in the form of CDs, journals, documentaries and pictures.