Sunday, May 23, 2010

Riddle of the Ridley

Riddle of the Ridley
by Shekar Dattatri
Published by Tulika Publishers
Ages: 8+

At a friend's place in Chennai last year, I met an unassuming gentleman who I was told was a wildlife film-maker/conservationist. He told us many interesting anecdotes about his work, including those to do with the Olive Ridley turtles. I was most impressed by the passion he had for what he did.

Shekar Dattatri. The name rang a loud bell when many months later I was browsing through some Tulika books for the kids. Of course - he was the wildlife guy I'd met. Leafing through the book in question, Riddle of the Riddley, I was soon fascinated by the story. The photographs, all taken on location, said what a million words could not have. There are many facts about the Olive Ridley turtle, all woven into the narrative which will certainly hold a child's interest mainly because it is the author's own experiences that have been penned down.

For example, did you know that these sea turtles return year after year to the same three places to nest? One is in Costa Rica, the other in Mexico and the third on our own eastern coast in Orissa. Dattatri says the spectacle of thousands of the creatures coming ashore and crawling up the beach is the most incredible he has ever seen, and that must be something given that he must have seen very many amazing things! The pregnant females lay their eggs in the sand and return to the sea. The males never come to the land. After a month or two, the eggs hatch and the hatchlings make their way towards their home - the sea.

Like many awesome things that Nature has carefully created, this phenomenon is also threatened by the most powerful predator of them all - Man! Lights from the highways confuse these creatures and they end up going away from the sea, a fatal move. They inadvertently get caught in the huge fishing nets of mechanized boats near the shores. Developments very close to the sea impact them adversely.

Dattatri makes a plea to save the turtle and lists the ways in which it is possible to revert their mindless annihilation. He tells us that they have been around for millions of years and are a vital part of the delicate balance of nature and hence must be protected. There are, he says, initiatives like Operation Kachhapa and the Student's Sea Turtle Conservation Network that are working towards this but more needs to be done. This could be something as simple as switching off lights near the nesting beaches during nesting/hatching season and also some other measures that would mean stricter implementation of laws to protect them. At the end of the book is a list of Why? What? Where? type of questions which will fill any gaps you might have about these awesome reptiles.

Dattatri has also made an award-winning film called The Ridley's Last Stand, and I hope to be able to watch it some time. For many interesting posts about the Olive Ridley that includes an author post of another awesome book called The Turtle Story published by Pratham Books, please go here.

Perhaps if we understand why we must live in harmony with other creatures, we may not need to celebrate the likes of World Turtle Day (which happens to be today) to bring attention to these issues.


Praba Ram said...

How apt Chox for World Turtle Day! Wonderful review. Thanks!

Just this Friday knowing today is world turtle day, my 8 yr old took a tiny little turtle carved out of wood for her show and share. She talked about the ridleys to her class, the arribada (mass nesting) and the threats they have been facing. We also listened to Shekar on a youtube newsclip where he discusses the potential threats from the new casuarina plantations that might affect ridley's nesting. Do check it out.

sathish said...

chox, nice review.

reminds me of karthik sankar who wrote The Turtle story - as mentioned in your review.

sandhya said...

Have seen this book earlier, but not really read through it. Thanks for bringing it to our notice, Chox.

Vibha said...

Picked this book last year from the 'Turtle Bank' on the way to Mahabalipuram from Chennai. Great review Chox! Will look for the Turtle Story now.

Choxbox said...

P: That must have been so cool :)

You know what that reminds me of - this book called The Whispering Palms, published by Orient Longman, about a little girl who shows that we can live peacefully with other creatures. She carves turtles out of coconut shells :)
Will check out the link you mention.

Sathish: Thanks, and that book is awesome too, isn't it?!

Sandhya: My pleasure!

V: Thanks! And you've been there?! I've been there too, years ago as a student. The place was swarming with newly hatched croc babies I remember :)

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