In conjunction with our community education programmes, TREE Foundation has developed and implemented awareness and training programmes for officials of the Environment and Forest and Fisheries Departments, Indian Coast Guard and Marine Police. Designed to standardise data collection and conservation protocols for sea turtle and marine mammals, these programmes will eventually be implemented in all coastal areas of India to build a nationwide network of officials sharing common goals of conservation.
TREE Foundation focuses on developing an eco- aware society ensuring harmonious co-existence with all life forms. The Foundation also aims to establish partnerships with local education institutions and decision-makers to disseminate findings and encourage more effective conservation policy through participatory workshops, curriculum development, and knowledge exchanges with conservationists.
Our primary mission is to protect the fragile marine eco-system of India and educate people to conserve all life forms. We strongly believe in the land-ocean connection, in that if people are the problem, then they are the solution. Successful conservation requires a multi-disciplinary approach, where communities and livelihoods are not excluded but instead empowered, thereby facilitating the base for effective change.
TREE Foundation is based in Chennai. Our activities are carried out along the coast of Chennai and Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
In view of our objectives, TREE Foundation aims to address marine conservation by focusing on the following:
Sea turtle conservation: Using the olive ridley as a flagship species to address marine conservation issues with the fishing community, Department of Fisheries, Department of Wildlife and the general public, TREE Foundation’s community based sea turtle conservation work has and would further enhance efforts to recover turtle populations along the South Indian coastline and promote community involvement in conservation through training and stewardship opportunities.
While we were conducting sea turtle conservation programmes, we discovered other protected marine wildlife was being poached. Therefore, the scope of the outreach programmes has widened to include all protected marine species.
Community members, many of whom were egg poachers, are encouraged to consider sea turtle nest monitoring as a professional alternative livelihood. The programme continues to partner with coastal communities interested in assuming greater responsibility for sea turtle survival in southeast India, by facilitating beach patrols and the development of outreach materials.
TREE Foundation pioneered a successful community based conservation programme for the endangered olive ridley sea turtles nesting along the south eastern coast of India. TREE also initiated the sea turtle conservation community based programme in 2002 for fishers of 5 fishing villages, covering 13 km of the coast to protect nesting female turtles, their eggs and to reduce turtle mortality.
The olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) nests on the southeast Indian coast (in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh), and juvenile hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas), forage in the coastal waters of the area. However, no conservation measures had been initiated in the 110 km of Kancheepuram coast and 32 km stretch in Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) to where TREE Foundation has now expanded. Until 2008, local communities were unaware of the protection laws and importance of the turtles in the coastal marine ecosystem in these areas.
Community development: In helping to evolve a symbiotic and harmonious co-existence with nature and to develop self reliance among the community by identifying them as responsible key stakeholders in the resource, TREE seeks to facilitate sustained commitment to conservation goals by fostering capacity for livelihood diversification and income- generation.
Environment education: TREE’s environment education programme is focused on fisher-folk and students in schools and colleges in India, specifically along the east coast of India to improve environmental awareness and literacy.
TREE Roots & Shoots Eco Groups (A Dr. Jane Goodall Volunteer Network Program): The TREE Roots & Shoots programme helps connect students through education, volunteering and communication to expand the member network for a wider reach and effective movement towards biodiversity conservation in India.
In addition to the above activities, TREE Foundation has also been the first non-governmental organisation to perform the satellite tagging of sea turtles, with technical expertise provided by Dr. Tony Tucker. TREE Foundation also carries out rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles and marine mammals and conducts necropsy when necessary. TREE is also involved in the study of Indo-Paci c humpback dolphins.
A brief profile of the Foundation’s activities between 2009 and 2010 is given below:
TREE Foundation is based in Chennai. Our activities are carried out along the coast of Chennai and Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with plans to expand our programmes nationwide.
TREE is supported by the Trustees’ personal funds, properties and well wishers. The Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department (Tamil Nadu) has supported the Sea Turtle Protection Force since 2006 with a stipend provided to members of the Force during the turtle nesting period. The Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department (Andhra Pradesh) has also supported the STPF from 2009 onwards. The National Biodiversity Authority of India has supported the annual Flipper Fest from 2007 onwards. Supraja Dharini has also received awards form the Whitley Fund for Nature for the year 2009 and grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, Conservation Fund and Oak Foundation for Environment Awareness, Community Outreach and Sea Turtle Conservation Programs from 2010.
We aim to set up an institute for research and conservation to expand our current activities. We are currently pursuing further collaborations on projects and activities. We have also recently co- founded BEACON (Bay of Bengal Ecologists and Conservation Network) with eld workers along the Bay of Bengal in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for better conservation management in the Bay of Bengal region, with a special focus on marine mega fauna.
In association with the Department of Environment and Forests and Indian Coast Guard in the respective states, we will conduct prohibited marine species awareness workshops for Forest, Fisheries, Coast Guard and Marine Police for all the coastal states of India.
In being an active member of the TAG network, we would like to share information whole heartedly with all members of the network. We would like to initiate a Turtle Recovery Program for the Indian coast with the participation and involvement of all members of TAG. With local TAG members from Vishakhapatnam (VISAKA SPCA) and Gujarat (Prakruti Nature Club) TREE Foundation has developed a network to jointly provide expertise on scientific methods necessary for turtle conservation (satellite tagging, flipper tagging, hatcheries management, biopsy sampling, necropsy procedures, data recording and standardisation), resource material design and development and to conduct prohibited marine species awareness workshops for officials and communities in the respective states. The first batch of STPFs from Chennai are the resource persons for training STPFs in these areas.
Contributed by Supraja Dharini, Founder – Trustee and Chairperson, TREE Foundation.
Contact information: Supraja Dharini, Founder-Trustee and Chairperson, TREE Foundation.
Postal address: 63, First Avenue, Vettuvankeni, Chennai–600 041
Phone: +91 44 24492242; +91 9444052242 / 9941267035
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