Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Chhatrapur, Feb 18:
The maiden census of dolphins carried out by wildlife and forest department officials in Odisha’s coastal eco-systems and shorelines has come up with surprising numbers and has put the head count at 432.
The enumeration of the aquatic mammal on the Ganjam coast, which is well-known for the mass nesting of endangered Olive Ridley turtles, has surprised the surveyors as 24 dolphins of two different species were spotted by the wildlife and forest officials in their first ever survey in the coastlines stretching across 54 km.
‘‘Four teams, led by Dr Pratyush and four researchers, conducted the survey from Prayagi on the Ganjam coast to Aanantaraypur coastline bordering Andhra Pradesh. They ventured 1 km into the sea and found as many as 24 dolphins in these areas,’’ divisional forest officer (DFO), Berhampur, Sudhansu Sekhar Mishra said.
The maiden census conducted in areas other than Chilika lagoon has sprung a surprise for officials and researchers.
‘‘The 24 dolphins sighted in the Ganjam coast is good news for the tourists as well as environmentalists and is likely to attract more visitors to this area,’’ Mishra added.
Surprisingly, the enumerators did not spot any dolphin on the the Puri coastline. However, 124 dolphins were sighted in Chilika lagoon, 280 in the Bhitarkanika eco-system, one in Baleswar and three in Bhadrak.
The survey was conducted on the basis of the line transect method, which is followed across the world to count the population of aquatic mammals, an official said.
Meanwhile, coastal vigilance has been stepped up in view of the mass nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles listed under Schedule 1 of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Notably, during the last week of February and early March every year, millions of turtles climb the shore and lay eggs by digging pits at the river Rushikulya mouth known as the second largest mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles after Gahirmatha in Kendrapara district.