I have always been a solo-traveller. It was on one such fine November morning that I decided to go on a bike ride to Paradeep from my hometown Cuttack. Well, who doesn’t love a good long-drive, right? But hardly did I knew then that it was all a part of my destiny.
Image Credits: Nat Geo Traveller India
Okay, so before I start I need to tell that I’m a speed junkie who enjoys being in control on the road. That day was no other where I was hitting around 100 on the highway and it felt amazing. As soon as I reached Kujang, I was already half the mind to actually set foot in Paradeep and was more interested to hit back the road. But then I decided that let’s see how this works out and if I didn’t feel like I can always have my return ride great! The first place that I wanted to go to, was the port, obviously right? And it was really cool to watch all those huge ships docked there, most of them from across the world like China, Korea, U.S.A, among other countries. After I had left the port, I didn’t feel like going elsewhere apart from the beach, I have always been hearing about the blue waters that beaches in Paradeep have, so thought to see it for myself this time.
Image Credits: Beaches Of India
And the next thing I know was a large number of turtles crawling up to the shore. At first, I thought that maybe I was in the wrong place but then I saw the sign-board where it was written about the beach and the nesting season and I was gaping at it. I never knew that these turtles come to Odisha from all over the world for nesting every year! By then, I believe I was mesmerized at the view cause the next thing that I remember was getting on the beach to help a turtle tangled in the fishnets that were just lying on the sand. The turtle was tangling itself more and more with each attempt and kept nudging and biting me each time I was helping it. I literally had to cut through the net to get that poor creature out of it. I got up on my feet after setting the turtle free, until I saw that there are countless turtles tangled in the nets that were just lying all over on the beach. This time before I felt bad for the turtles, I felt irritated about the fishermen who have just lazily have left their nets on the sand despite knowing about the turtles’ nesting season. There were people on the beach who chose to remain ignorant to the suffering of these creatures despite of seeing their plight that shook me. I took most of the nets off the beach and the rest of the nets I cut them through because of my sheer feeling of helplessness. I couldn’t stand any longer witnessing such a barbaric display of negligence and I left for Cuttack.
Image Credits: NewIndianExpress
Though it had been quite a few weeks, I couldn’t forget what was going on Gahirmatha Beach. Having said that, I hardly could accept that I’m powerless in the situation. With all that I could, I did a lot of research on Google about the Government’s actions to keep the turtles safe but all that I read, didn’t calm me down. It was during that weekend that I decided to visit the beach again. It was late afternoon as I arrived and I saw only a few turtles on the beach. But, there were a lot of fishermen who were around and preparing their boats for the next day’s catch. I went to talk with them regarding the lying of the fishnets the previous time. At first, they were all whining about their own set of problems and then they started telling about the illegal poaching and hunting of turtles and turtle eggs on the beach. Having read about it I decided to take a different course with the fishermen, proposing them to help them by giving them money in return for getting information about those who were illegally hunting turtles. I had almost no expectation of getting any valid information from the deal I made with the fishermen, and it wasn’t long before I got several names and news about the illegal poachers. Meanwhile, I had been writing about this growing issue of Olive Ridley turtles in Gahirmatha beach on my blog and was receiving multiple comments where the readers have seen the same.
Image Credits: Hindustan Times
After I have had got the information, I tried to contact the authorities of the Forest Department in Kujang that first didn’t pay attention to it but at once went ahead to look for the facts when I told them that I had been writing about it on my blogs. Though they didn’t find any of the men who were actually doing it, my blog encouraged many readers to visit the beach and help the tangled turtles. Through these years, the beach has been declared as a wildlife preserve by the Government of Odisha. Even though it has brought a minor change in the hunting of the turtles, but there are many volunteers (be it from NGOs or regular people) who go to the beach to see the turtles and help them if these creatures need their help. Fishing isn’t allowed on the beach and that keeps the fishnets off the sand and turtles.
After all these years, I have realized I have grown a strong bond with those turtles and go back to the beach every year to see this beautiful natural phenomenon take place.
Author of this blog chooses to remain anonymous.