Responsible tourism and ridley sea turtles at Rushikulya, Orissa

Responsible tourism and ridley sea turtles at Rushikulya, Orissa

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Dakshin Foundation will, in collaboration with local community groups, initiate sea turtle-based tourism activities in Rushikulya, Orissa. The project will build the capacities of the local groups and develop guidelines and operational protocols to facilitate responsible tourism, and simultaneously improve monitoring and protection of the species at this site, which is not part of the protected area network in India. The benefits of the intervention should have positive social impacts in addition to positively influencing turtle conservation.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The prescription of protectionist conservation measures in this area has isolated local communities and has led to a lack of sense of antagonism over conservation measures. ‘A top-down approach to conservation and the absence of active participation of local communities has increased the hostility of fishing and other local communities to conservation interventions. Our intervention seeks to involve local communities as primary actors. The lack of sustained and effective communication between stakeholders, local communities and government agencies has led to ineffective conservation measures and a lack of benefits to local communities. The lack of effective communication skills in the local community has prevented them from being establishing an effective tourism programme. Although local organisations in the area have been successful in spreading awareness through outreach and education programmes locally, strengthening their communication skills is an important step in being able to reach a wider, and more diverse, public.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The mouth of the Rushikulya river is a key mass nesting site for the endangered olive ridley turtle in India; Orissa is the only location outside central America where this unique phenomenon occurs. The uniqueness of this extraordinary biological phenomenon provides an opportunity to attract tourists and build environmental awareness in civil society. Sea turtles are charismatic flagships of the coastal habitat, and can act as the focus of successful eco-tourism programmes. The active involvement of local communities in the intervention will ensure that the turtle populations and habitats are safeguarded. Local community-based NGOs that work in the area, such as the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee and the Sea Turtle Action Programme in Orissa have been involved in conservation action for many years and can be the key actors in implementing tourism-based activities. The idea for turtle-based tourism is based on the premise that conservation objectives are reached when there is incentive for acceptance of and participation in these measures, and interventions are validated when they are participatory in nature and benefit local stakeholders, which includes the local communities that depend on the resources that are the focus of conservation. The Orissa coastline is currently being overrun by development. Therefore, generating revenue is an important incentive and eco-tourism based activities can offset resource access restrictions imposed by the current model of protection-oriented conservation in the area. If successful, the benefits accruing from the programme will strengthen the capacity of local communities to influence decision-making processes that impact the area.
About You
Dakshin Foundation
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Indian Institute of Science and Dakshin Foundation


, KA

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Dakshin Foundation

Organization Phone


Organization Address

8, Dwaraka Apartments, 24th Cross Road, Sahakara Nagar C Block, Bangalore 560092

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, OR

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Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

Our involvement with local organisations in the area has included several collaborative conservation based activities, such as incorporating traditional knowledge systems with science-based approaches, standardizing data collection and monitoring techniques and supporting outreach and education programmes suited to the local context. Members of these communities and organisations also seek alternative income opportunities by guiding tourists that visit the area. Based on their expertise in, and sensitivity to, the ecology and environmental aspects of the area, we recognise a great potential to involve them in appropriately designed tourism based activities.
We have also worked closely with the traditional fishing communities in the area, and analysed the consequences of conservation interventions on their livelihoods. An important outcome of such interactions has been the facilitation of dialogue between local stakeholders and rights-holders and conservation practitioners to determine solutions to anthropogenic threats on turtle populations and habitats while ensuring that the rights of access of the community are not adversely impacted. We have facilitated the formation of the Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium, a multi- stakeholder platform for collaborative conservation in the state.
Our engagement with the forest department, the principal authority responsible for safeguarding the habitat, has also yielded positive results in terms of greater acceptance of conservation interventions by non-governmental agencies and increased participation of local community members in these activities. In collaboration with the Forest Department, we have developed turtle census manuals for use during mass nesting. We have also produced awareness material on legislations governing the area.


Special attention to sustaining interactions between local government agencies and local communities is essential. However, cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, and a lack of clarity in the jurisdiction of authority of local government bodies might hinder effective interactions and participation. Further, recruiting of new field staff within the local forest department offices might involve additional time and resources needed for reorientation and inclusion in activities. This can be overcome by enabling local agencies to be trained to provide the necessary inputs and guidance to newly recruited staff.

The intervention will aim to project sustainable tourism as a viable avenue for local revenue generation. However, the development priorities of the state government (including port development, urbanization and industrialisation) providing economic benefits to investors and the government might override the local benefits that arise from developing locally situated and managed tourism-related programmes, and the usurping of more modest benefits by vested interests.


Greater involvement of community members in the sustainable management of resources and safeguarding of the coastal habitat

Increased employment opportunities for local community members

Strengthened capacity of stakeholders involved as actors in the intervention to influence key management decisions at a local scale

Increased recognition of the site and threats to turtle populations and habitats, which in turn could increase pressures on the state and national government to boost conservation efforts

Increased acceptance of conservation interventions by local communities involved in tourism-related activities

Increased incentive for government agencies to channel resources and staff towards sustainable management of the habitat and related resources

Increased sensitivity and appreciation of visiting public to ecological, social and cultural aspects unique to the area

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

The initial steps that are required to implement programme activities will build on our current understanding of ecological and socio-economic dynamics of the region developed through many years of research and conservation action in the area. Assessing community perceptions of conservation and the benefits that may arise through conservation is an important parameter in designing appropriate activities that will involve the local community and ensure that their expectations are met. Activities during the first year will also require resources and effort to be utilized towards developing and carrying out training programmes to evolve self sustaining systems of management. A strong focus on communication skills and expansion of existing outreach programmes to suit the ‘tourist’ public is also planned. Further, the intervention will aim to initiate the local forest department’s cooperation and participation in planned activities.

After initiating appropriate activities, the second year will focus on enabling the development of a self-sustaining model. Our role in the intervention will then primarily be as facilitators of activities carried out by local community members. Through the OMRCC network, individuals and individual organisations will be provided with training and their inputs will be sought in developing programmes.

Based on a careful analysis and review of the initial and consecutive year of implementation, further adaptation of activities to better suit requirements of the sector, and/or expansion of activities based on response within the sector will be implemented from the third year onwards, ensuring that the process of initiation and operation becomes self-managed, with minimal interference from outside actors. The development of a successful model can also be recommended as a protocol that can be developed in other areas, and focusing on other species of wildlife within the country, and elsewhere.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Seasonality of tourism: As the nesting and hatching season is the only time of the year during which turtle watching is possible, sustaining tourism throughout the year might prove difficult.

Overriding of commercial tourism-related activities: The opportunity for monetary benefits from tourism related activities will attract vested interests including the commercial hospitality sector. Unless proper management and regulatory systems are in place, the unforeseen expansion of the sector can undermine the ecologically and socially sensitive interventions initiated by the programme. As elucidated by other examples from around the world, the opening up of investment opportunities can subvert economic and social benefits to local communities and stakeholders arising from the intervention and jeopardize the environmental benefits that are intended to be realised.

Lack of supporting infrastructure: The proposed intervention pertains to an area that is relatively under-developed. The lack of supporting hospitality infrastructure will require additional effort in ensuring accompanying systems are in place including lodging facilities, access to the site, etc., which may be outside the purview of our proposed intervention.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?

, OR

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium is the key network of local organisations that work in the area and will be the main actor in implementing activities. The role of the OMRCC will be to form liaisons between stakeholder groups and incorporate its understanding of local social, political and environmental conditions in programme activities. Dakshin Foundation’s role as the facilitator of the intervention will include the development of operational protocols and guidelines in collaboration with ORMCC and will seek the assistance of OMRCC in enabling the participation of all relevant organisations and individuals in the area.

The local and state forest and tourism department agencies have been key partners and collaborators of our conservation related activities in the past. We intend to sustain interactions with these agencies and involve them in executing programme interventions. It is also important for government agencies to recognize the role that OMRCC as a network, and individual organisations and members of local communities play in the execution of the intervention.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

a) Dakshin, as a facilitator, and OMRCC as an executor, will need to systematically develop appropriate methodologies, guidelines and operational protocols that can be implemented. It is important that these are developed in collaboration with the main actors of the initiative, namely local organisations and individuals from local communities. A thorough review of other examples of such interventions around the world will also provide key insights on the feasibility and effectiveness of proposed activities and these lessons will have to be incorporated into the management tools that will be developed.

b) Regular review and analysis of outcomes from the intervention are essential in order to enable the development of a self-sustaining model for responsible community-based tourism. This will also allow for adapting existing activities to better suit the requirements and expectations of the local communities and visitors to the area, in keeping with changes in local conditions. In time, this can facilitate the expansion of the intervention by involving a larger number of actors catering to a larger and more diverse tourist profile.

c) We will need to strengthen already existing networks with and between local organisations and representatives of local communities in the area, and develop new ones where they are lacking. The development of strong networks ensures effective communication between all actors, and can help clearly define roles of each actor in order to also ensure that decision making is transparent and inherently participatory. Ties with other stakeholders including local (forest and tourism) government agencies, conservation groups, fishing commu

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

I have been working on sea turtles since 1988, starting with a students movement on the east coast of India which used sea turtles as a flagship to involve college students and the public in a conservation activity. Since that time, I have been keenly aware of the power of sea turtles to attract people. From the enigma of the adult turtle, which only emerges from the sea briefly to lay eggs, to the charm of hatchlings, these animals are incredibly charismatic, and able to draw peoples attention to issues concerning coastal and marine conservation.

In the early 2000s, I started working on the biology and conservation of olive ridley turtles in Orissa. While one of the major sites for this species in the world, the population has been plagued by conflict with local fishing communities and threatened by coastal development. While working in Rushikulya in 2004, my colleagues and I realised that local community groups, who had been involved in supporting researchers, and in outreach programmes, could simultanously support monitoring and conservation programmes, and benefit from this activity through tourism.

Since these communities do not use or consume sea turtles or eggs, they could easily be made partners in conservation with benefits to communities and sea turtle populations. Towards this, we established the Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium, to bring together various stakeholders to enhance livelihoods and conservation. As of now, we have not been able to incorporate tourism into this programme, and hope to do so through this project.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

We have been inspired by several local and global conservationists. Jack Frazier, veteran of sea turtle biology and conservation, has visited Rushikulya as a collaborator and has long supported the idea that self sustaining community based programmes are the key to long term conservation.

Mangaraj Panda, the leader of the United Artists Association, has worked with local fishing communities and community groups such as the Orissa Traditional Fishworkers Union and Samudram, a women's group and recent winner of the Equator Prize.

Wallace J. Nichols has been leading a community based sea turtle conservation movement in Baja California with several innovative and inspiring ideas.

All these and many more individuals have served as inspiration for our ideas.

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