Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rajnagar, Mar 14:
After skipping the Odisha beaches for mass nesting last year, the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles have returned to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapara district with a bang this year laying no less than 80,000 eggs in the first two days.
‘‘Nearly 80,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles have come ashore for mass nesting at the Nasi-I and Nasi-II islands in the last two days of the nesting. Around 4 lakh turtles had laid eggs at Gahirmatha between March 18 and 21, two years ago,’’ SS Srivastava, the chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests said.
With the climate just perfect for nesting at the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, considered to be the largest rookery of the endangered Oliver Ridley turtles, Olive Ridley turtles emerging from the sea are strolling towards the shore with gusto for nesting, wildlife experts said.
The south wind blowing during this time is favourable for the sea turtles as it propels them to come ashore for the mass nesting along the beaches of Babubali island.
Meanwhile, under the supervision of Rajnagar Mangrove (Forest) and Wildlife Division DFO Bimal Prasanna Acharya, Gahirmatha Range Officer Subrat Patra, Rajnagar Range Officer Binod Acharya, Mahakalpada Range Officer Bijay Parida, Kanika Range Officer Akshay Nayak, Durga Sahu and 28 other forest officials have been camping in the area to ensure safe nesting and protect the eggs so as to minimise mortality.
Besides, the Indian Coast Guard and the Forest Department have set up camps to guard the turtles and prevent the entry of fishing vessels. Surprise raids are also being carried out to prevent fishing within the turtle gathering areas.
Apart from the Babubali island, Olive Ridley turtles were seen nesting at Agarnasi, Barunei, Pentha and Satabhaya.
Notably, the state government has imposed a ban on fishing activities in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. As of now, forest officials have arrested at least 120 fishermen and seized about 35 fishing vessels for illegally fishing during the prohibition period.
The bright lights from the missile test range at the Wheelers’ Island near Gahiramatha have been turned off and the security and patrolling systems have been tightened. This is going to help the turtles for safe nesting as bright lights play a distraction for them, the official said.