A hundred and eighty Olive Ridley turtles graced Palavakkam beach last Sunday. Only, they were made of sand, shaped by 800 school and college students and people from corporates. The sand sculpting contest was organised by the NSS unit of Sathyabama Institute of Science And Technology and voluntary organisation, Save a Turtle. The idea, according to Hafiz Khan of Save a Turtle, was to create awareness on the plight of Olive Ridleys.
“90% of people who participated didn’t know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise,” says Hafiz. “Also, not many know that it’s the mother turtle that comes to the shore to lay eggs. The father turtle stays back at sea,” he says. Participants were judged based on their knowledge level on Olive Ridleys. “This was the main criteria, apart from creativity and presentation,” he says. “We looked at how clean they kept their area, how concerned they were about not leaving plastic waste behind.”
Save a Turtle is also gearing up to host a painting contest involving three lakh school students from Chennai, according to Hafiz. How will art aid in conservation? Hafiz says, for one, it will create awareness. “Children start asking questions, ask their parents, Google…” This will ultimately lead to the question — What can we do to protect Olive Ridleys? The more people talk about the issue, the more attention it ought to get.”
At the sand sculpting event, teams got to work at 1 pm, armed with water in buckets and bottles. They had two hours to give life to their sea turtle. Meanwhile, 75 students from the host team, worked on a 45-foot long sculpture, the show-stopper. The winning team, created a sculpture of an Olive Ridley mermaid. Hafiz says that it told a poignant story of how although mermaids are present in stories, and spoken of with wonder, they actually don’t exist. Similarly, if Olive Ridleys are not protected, they too will become creatures that exist only in stories.
Those interested in Olive Ridley conservation activities can get in touch with the Forest Department. Visit https://www.forests.tn.gov.in