From Soup to Superstar

The Story of Sea Turtle Conservation along the Indian Coast

by Kartik Shanker

Kartik Shanker

New India Foundation



The book From Soup to Superstar: The Story of Sea Turtle Conservation along the Indian Coast was launched by Rohini Nilekani at the Indian Institute of Science, during an event opened by noted historian and author Ramachandra Guha recently.

- The Hindu

Every winter, Olive Ridley sea turtles makes news when they come ashore to lay eggs on the Indian coast, and again, after a couple of months, when the hatchlings emerge to walk into the sea.

- Mint

Sea turtles are amongst the most enigmatic creatures that have always fascinated and puzzled us. Their major USP is the ‘arribada’ (‘arrival by sea’ in Spanish) or mass-nesting, when in the dead of night, females lumber on to beaches in their thousands, to laboriously dig nests, lay eggs and stagger back into the waves.

- The Hindu Business Line


Tigers, elephants, lions and other large mammals have so far been central to India’s conservation story. In spite of the country’s vast coastline and millions being dependent on marine resources for their livelihood, such species and habitats have been largely neglected in writings on nature and wildlife.
From Soup to Superstar provides the first comprehensive account of marine conservation in India, focusing on sea turtles, which are at once a fishery resource, a religious symbol and a conservation icon. Worshipped as kurma, the incarnation of Vishnu, by several communities, these creatures have been part of folklore and mythology for over 2,000 years. Until the 1970s, there were large- and small-scale turtle fisheries in Odisha and the Gulf of Mannar, while eggs and meat were consumed along the rest of the coast. Since then, several conservation programmes have been led in these regions by naturalists, scientists, activists and concerned citizens with diverse, often conflicting, approaches. Globally, attention has centered on the mass nesting beaches in Odisha, where over 100,000 turtles may nest simultaneously. New threats have emerged and elicited responses at local, national and international levels.
Bringing together a range of issues and actors that have affected the world of sea turtles, filled with fascinating insights into scientific research and human-animal ecologies, this is a definitive chronicle of the efforts that have been made to protect these mysterious creatures in the last 50 years.

Author Profile

Kartik Shanker

Kartik Shanker was inspired to a career in ecology by an ancient reptile, a sea turtle that crawled ashore late one night in Madras. As faculty at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he now indulges in his fascination for ecology and evolution, working with students on frogs, reptiles, birds, plants, reef fish and other marine fauna.

But that initial encounter with the turtle, an olive ridley, hooked him for life. In the twenty-five-or so years since then, he has helped establish a students’ groups for sea turtle conservation in Chennai, conducted research on olive ridleys in Odisha and leatherback turtles in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, started newsletters and websites and conducted international symposiums on sea turtles, and established regional and national networks for coastal and marine conservation. He has also served as the president of the International Sea Turtle Society and regional vice-chair of the IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

Shanker is a founding trustee of Dakshin Foundation, which works largely with coastal communities on natural resource conservation and management, and a founding editor of the magazine, Current Conservation. In his spare time, he seeks to distract young minds from more serious pursuits with books such as Turtle Story and The Adventures of Philautus Frog. Kartik loves hanging out in the islands, diving at reefs or looking for turtles, a passion that he shares with his family. At home in Bangalore, however, he is a slave to Meera, Vishak and two cats, which leaves little time for important activities like playing the guitar, basketball or going to the gym.