Three secluded beaches in Orissa, on the east coast of India play host to an extraordinary natural drama. On certain nights between January and May, when the south wind blows fiercely, tens of thousands of female olive Ridley’s climb ashore to lay over a hundred eggs each. The sun and sand incubate the eggs and approximately 45 days later they hatch under cover of darkness. This time millions of tiny hatchlings make their way in the opposite direction – towards the sea, where they will spend the rest of their lives. 10-15 years later, those that survive will return as mature adults to lay their eggs on the very beach where they were born. For as long as is known Ridley’s have been nesting on these beaches. As a species they have been around for millions of years, but today these gentle giants of the sea are in conflict with man. During the last decade alone over 100,000 adult olive Ridley’s have been killed accidentally by drowning in trawl and gill nets of mechanized fishing boats that ply these waters. With the fishing season coinciding with the migration of the turtles to Orissa for nesting, nets often contain more turtles than fish. Perhaps no other endangered species is being killed wantonly in such numbers anywhere else in the world.
THE RIDLEY’S LAST STAND is a poignant look at the lives and times of the Olive Ridley’s that visit Orissa, and provides new insights into the natural history and conservation of these mysterious creatures. A self-financed, pro bono film, it was completed in 2003 after two years of effort by the filmmaker.
Shown to key policy makers, conservation NGOs and the general public (through many public screenings), the film, which depicts both the problems and their solutions, resulted in a lot of awareness and some action, such as the Indian Coast Guard being given special powers to arrest mechanized fishing boats operating in ‘no fishing’ zones. However, due to a multitude of stakeholders and vested interests and absolutely no political will on the part of the Government of Orissa, there has been no lasting impact. Thousands of turtles continue to die needlessly every year.
Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 45 minutes
Format: MINI DV Country: India
Production Year: 2003
By Jason Peters