Supraja Dharini
Nesting turtle observed by community and Supraja Dharini
2021

Supraja Dharini

Conservationist

Choosing to make a difference

meet supraja

A committed sea turtle conservationist along the Indian east coast for the last 18 years, Supraja is exemplary in her multi-disciplinary approach. She has a team of 363 “sea turtle protection force (STPF)” members from 222 marginalized artisanal fishing villages in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Odisha. They have protected tens of thousands of Olive Ridley Turtle nests in hatcheries, which has resulted in the safe release of millions of hatchlings back to the sea. STPF members educate other fishers in their villages about the importance of conserving turtles, retrieving ghost nets, reducing pollution, and caring more for their ocean environment in general.

Choosing to make a difference
Nominated by: Joe Rohde FN'10
Class of 2021 Location India

Through establishing the STPF program, the TREE Foundation (Trust for Education and Environment) has given artisanal fishers a secure long-term alternative income to fishing that allows them to plan a future for their families. As a conservation program founded on the principles of community involvement and stewardship, members are the backbone of TREE Foundation’s conservation work. Being a STPF member gives the fisherman and his family a secure future income. Succeeding in my goal of protecting sea turtles while improving the lives of people in economically backward and maligned communities has been very rewarding.

The same people who may have once intentionally hunted and killed turtles or poached eggs are now working to protect the very species they once harmed. This shows that with the right attitude and hard work the seeming impossible can be made possible. Today, all fishermen release turtles entangled in fishing gear, and our members organize coastal cleanups and community welfare programs throughout the project areas.

“Whilst walking along my local beach, I came across the body of a dead Olive Ridley sea turtle. My encounter reminded me of Dr. Jane Goodall’s words, ‘Every individual can make
a difference.'”

- Supraja Dharini

In December 2001, whilst walking along my local beach, I came across the body of a dead Olive Ridley sea turtle. My encounter reminded me of Dr. Jane Goodall’s words, “Every individual can make
a difference.” With this in mind, I was determined to dedicate myself to protecting these sea turtles. I was honoured to meet and spend time with Jane, the person who has most inspired me and motivated me to grow an internationally recognized and respected conservation NGO with 363 members in three east-coast Indian states.

I believe the TREE Foundation’s biggest and lasting legacy will be the lives protected and saved today and in the future, and one of hope and a renewed compassion for nature.

never stop exploring

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