Toward the end of last week, authorities in Mumbai, India, declared that without precedent for a long time ocean turtles have effectively settled on one of the city's shorelines, reports Agence France-Presse. Witnesses state about 80 little olive ridley sea turtles moved out of their home on Versova Beach and start stumbling toward the ocean.

The settling comes following three years of cleanup on the exceptionally contaminated shoreline by a gathering of volunteers led by lawyer and environmental activist Afroz Shah. Shah tells Darryl D'Monte at Mongabay that the mother turtle was seen laying her eggs in the region two months prior. The cleanup gathering and fenugreek growers on the shoreline then kept watching. At 9 A.M. local time last Thursday, a volunteer saw the turtles hatching. Shah and his gathering visited the site and ensured the turtles as they set out toward the water. They kept the hatch secret until a while later to protect the small reptiles.

Shah tells The Times of India:

“This is indeed very good news for our Versova beach. The 80 olive ridley turtles hatched in the morning and made a dash towards the sea. Earlier, this beach was very dirty, with piles of plastic trash. No sea turtles were hatching here as garbage is a huge hurdle for them to cross. But now, thanks to the Clean Versova Beach drive, we are all happy and blessed to have seen these newly hatched olive ridley turtles.”

As D'Monte reports, Mumbai authorities were at first skeptical about the hatch, and a few conservationists worried that the news was an publicity stunt since no shells were obvious at the shoreline or in their photographs. An examination by the forestry department, notwithstanding, found a pit that had been planted over with fenugreek and contained turtle shells just as 20 dead infant turtles.

N. Vasudevan, of the forestry department says:

"Methi [fenugreek] was grown over the undetected nest. We discovered the empty egg shells the next day. The hatchlings were looking for a route to the sea and crawled sideways into the adjacent pit, from where people helped them out. We have not cordoned off the area but are keeping a watch. These may have been happening on a regular basis and we may have missed out on sighting them. Turtles normally lay eggs in October, which hatch in early January, two months later. Sometimes, this gets delayed.”

As indicated by the AFP, the forestry department will keep on observing the zone for different homes and disallow shoreline excavation.

Big turtle on sand beach
Photo by Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

While a few territories on India's coast are incredible for turtles—Odisha has one of the world's biggest mass-settling turtle grounds—the shorelines in the territory of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is found, are not so good. The Times of India reports that 80 to 90 percent are excessively harmed or contaminated to host turtles.

Sumedha Korgaonkar, a PhD competitor who is studying the olive ridley turtles of Maharashtra discloses to D'Monte that she doesn't think the settling is as noteworthy as it appears—and the turtles may have been secretively settling all over the coast:

“For me, this is not big news of a sighting for the first time. It is a common misconception to imagine that these creatures are shy and deterred by human activities along the coast,”
“We may have ignored their presence because hatchlings usually emerge at night, beyond the high-tide line.”

She urges individuals to learn the signs of turtle settling and to look for tracks of turtles entering and leaving the shoreline to help keep better tabs on Maharashtra's turtles.