The last two months has witnessed far too many arrivals of Olive Ridley turtles on the shores of Mumbai. 2 of them have been admitted in serious conditions at Thane SPCA. Both were severely mauled with flippers chopped off, leading us to believe that they might have been victims of black magic.
We had our third visitor in the month of November 2011. By far the largest one admitted ( 60 Kgs ), and comparatively the healthiest with only some light bruises on his shoulder, Olio stayed with us for some light medication and dressing. Due to severe shortage of space we had to keep her – yet again – in a 500 lts. Sintex tank, used previously by her fellow species patients Oliver and Olivia.
In 4 days her wound almost disappeared and she was ready for release. During her stay our staff sourced sea water from the local creek in plastic bins, 120 lts at a time everyday, to ensure that she was submerged in saline water throughout.
Prior to release our Surgeon Dr.Kiran Shelar wated to be sure about her swimming ability, something that has been in his mind since the rescue as to why Olio was washed ashore in the first place. Since there was no way she could swim around in the tank, we searched for 2 days for a children’s pool or someones bathtub, till we realised our member Yatin Mhatre had a small pool in his house where we test her swimming.
Olio was carried from the hospital to Mr. Mhatre’s home, where she showed our surgeon and the Forest Officials present, what a champion swimmer she is. Now she was ready to go back home.
Here was the most difficult situation facing us. Being a Schedule I species, we needed to co-ordinate with the Forest department to be present during the release, and the Police for crowd management as well as allowing us entry into any high security areas . Choosing the spot for the release entails thorough research. The mode of transportaion and time of release is of vital importance.
A persistent supporter of our work, Mili Gandhi, with her indomitable enthusiasm and knowledge of animals, did all the spade work. Her friend, Mr. Viraf who as a member of the Yacht Club, arranged for a sail boat since a motor boat would make too much noise which would disturb the animal. Mili and Viraf made detailed studies of the exact location for the release where the sea would be at its deepest and which is not frequented by fishing trawlers or fishing boats. The team which was on stand by to go out was instructed on the dress code and other essentials.
On the 24th November 2011 our ambulance reached the gateway of India at 3 PM. It was carrying Olio in a Sintex tank filled with saline water. When we reached we contacted the Police officials stationed there for help. Immediately they deputed a large group to stand around the ambulance till Olio was ready to be shifted. At 3:30 PM, as the winds became favourable, she was shifted from the tank onto a blue tarpauline and with the help of the Forest Officials, our staff and some tourists she was carried to the boat. We had to change boats a little further on. Alan and Debashish did the photography from the 2nd boat, while the rest were with Olio in the 1st boat for the release.
Olio was a little restless while in the ambulance ( she travelled over 100kms from our hospital in Thane to Gateway of India ) and while being carried to the boat. But Mr. Viraf writes to us : ” Olive was frisky initially, but once we set sail she was as calm as the winds. We opened up the sheets and she was at complete ease in the boat and would occassionally stretch her neck high and eyes wide open as I am sure the feeling of the sea breeze made her feel at home.”
It took the team 50 mins to reach the spot of release. As our Support Staff Vijay bid goodbye, Olio dove straight into the sea, bobbed up once, looked around and disappeared forever.
We would like to specially thank the Yacht Club for allowing us to use their sail boats, Mr. Viraf for the smooth co-ordination of the release, Alan and Debashish for their photography and videography, The Mumbai Police not just for providing us Security but also for treating us to hot tea when we most needed it, the Range Forest Department, Thane and Range Forest officer Shri Singh, Mr. Mhatre for keeping vigil on Olio for a day and night by her side at the pool, Mili Gandhi for letting us exploit her time and brain and last but not the least Thane SPCA staff members who fed the Ridley with their own hands, hauled saline water physically from the sea and took turns to keep her moist for 4 days without a break.
After all this, Olio owes us 100s of babies somewhere and be smart not to get caught or wash ashore again.