Fact check: Post misleads on turtles hatching after massive beach cleanup in India

·4 min read

The claim: Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles hatched after a 96-week beach cleanup in India

A group of environmentalists completed one of the world’s largest beach cleanups in March 2018, but in the years following, details about the story have been misrepresented online.

One recent social media post claims a clean-up effort on the west coast of India led to hundreds of thousands of tiny sea turtles hatching.

“It took 96 weeks and thousands of volunteers to clean up Versova Beach in Mumbai, India,” reads an Oct. 11 Facebook post that accumulated more than 4,600 reactions within less than a week. “The payoff? Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles hatching this week. First time in decades. Anything can be cleaned!”

Over the years, similar versions of the claim have been shared to Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter, where one post from August 2019 received more than 273,000 likes.

The post is misleading, however. The cleanup took place years ago, and approximately 80 sea turtles made it to the sea, not hundreds of thousands. The photo of baby sea turtles in the post is not from Versova Beach.

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The Facebook page that shared the post did not return a request for comment.

Clean-up was in 2018, 80 turtles spotted

It’s true that sea turtles hatched after a beach clean-up in Mumbai, but the post is off on both the volume and the timing.

For more than two years, volunteers spent time cleaning up Versova Beach and collected about 11 million pounds of trash and plastic waste, according to news reports. After the garbage was removed, olive ridley turtle hatchlings were spotted on the beach in 2018 for the first time in decades.

However, witnesses said there were approximately 80 hatchlings, not hundreds of thousands, and the image of the turtles included in the post was not captured at Versova Beach.

Independent fact-check organizations that have previously debunked the claim reported the photo shows turtles at Rushikulya Beach in Visakhaptnam, which is on the opposite coast of India.

The image appeared in an April 12, 2016, article from The Indian Tribune about an annual mass nesting that takes place at Rushikulya rookery for four to six days.

The photo showing mounds of trash was in fact taken on Versova Beach.

Mumbai officials initially said no eggs were visible at the beach or in photos, but an investigation by the forestry department later found a pit with turtle shells, according to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that hundreds of thousands of sea turtles hatched after a 96-week beach cleanup in India. There was a significant beach cleanup in India, but 80 turtles hatched after it, not hundreds of thousands. The photo presented as proof for the turtles was actually taken at another beach on the other side of the country.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Post misleads on turtles hatching after beach cleanup