Volunteers from Mumbai get lessons on handling stranded turtles
MUMBAI: In the wake of increased sea turtle strandings this monsoon, WWF India, along with Marine Life of Mumbai(MLOM) and zoologist and wildlife rescuer Bhushan Bhoir organised a sea turtle rescue workshop for citizen volunteers on Sunday. The volunteers were provided guidelines about correctly handling injured turtles and field rescue techniques to prevent further exhaustion and ensure maximum survival of the animals.
A rescuer first needs to figure out whether a beached turtle really needs help, informed Bhoir to the volunteers. “A turtle with no injuries or signs of exhaustion might have come to nest and should not be disturbed. An injured turtle washed ashore certainly needs timely help,” he said. He demonstrated how a turtle should be correctly lifted by a minimum of two people to prevent any injuries to the reptile. He further explained why a beached turtle should be kept in shade to prevent dehydration. “Rescuers should look for iceboxes available with fishermen and keep the turtles in them. This prevents them from moving their flippers and losing energy. They should be laid on and covered with gunny sacks soaked in sea water to keep them hydrated till the forest department vehicle arrives.”
This was the first in the series of in-depth workshops that will help citizen volunteers become skilled rescuers. The following workshops will help volunteers build their own network of informers, learn hands-on rescue techniques and first-aid administration. “Our aim is to help the forest department to expedite the rescue operation and ensure that maximum number of turtles are rescued and sent back to the sea. This core group of around 25 volunteers will be aggressively trained in the next one month,” said Vaibhavi Shitut, Head, WWF-India, Maharashtra State Office.
“Fishermen live by the sea and can be the most important information resource for rescuers and researchers alike,” said marine conservationist Pradip Patade associated with MLOM, who will guide volunteers in building a network of informers from among fishermen, lifeguards, regular beach walkers and cops who patrol the beaches.
Prashant Deshmukh, Range Forest Officer (RFO) of the western region with the forest department’s mangrove cell attended the workshop and pledged complete support from the forest department. Underlining the need for citizen volunteers in wildlife rescue operations, he informed that he is in-charge of 1,438 hectares of mangroves from Bandra to Dahisar and has a team of only six individuals. “We cannot deploy staff at every beach; a large network of citizen volunteers spread across the city will help us rescue these turtles in time,” he said.