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.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
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