When another mass nesting beach at Rushikulya was discovered, the impulse to declare it a sanctuary may have been dampened by the lessons learned at Gahirmatha.
Madhuri Ramesh https://azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/SitePages/madhuri-ramesh.aspx started her career as a biologist studying the Travancore tortoise in the Western Ghats and Spiny-tailed lizards in Rajasthan. Then, she jumped into political ecology, studying sea turtle conservation in Orissa. She is now an Assistant Professor at the School of Development, Azim Premji University.
Chatting with field assistants who came from local communities, Madhuri realised what they thought of wildlife conservation was different from her own perspective. The legal restrictions on how they live and earn a livelihood hit them hard. She felt inadequate in her training in biology to understand the undertones. So she switched to studying political ecology with a specific focus on sea turtle conservation in Orissa.
Gahirmatha, one of the mass nesting sites of the olive ridley sea turtle, was declared as a sanctuary in 1997 as a result of the US’s ban on Indian shrimp. In order to show its efforts to protect the species, India declared the sanctuary without consulting fishers and coastal communities whose lives would be impacted. When another mass nesting beach at Rushikulya was discovered, the impulse to declare it a sanctuary may have been dampened by the lessons learned at Gahirmatha.
Madhuri talks about what it meant to study people who had long been participants and subjects of research projects.
Photo credits: Kalyan Varma
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