Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Brahmapur, May 6:
Though officials claim to have restricted entry of trespassers, feral dogs were on Tuesday seen devouring Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings along the Podampeta beach in Odisha’s Ganjam district, raising grave concern over their safety among environmentalists and tourists alike.
Tourists visiting the Rushikulya river bed, considered world’s second largest rookery for Olive Ridley sea turtles, were disappointed to witness dead turtle hatchlings being nibbled away by dogs along the beach spread over an area of around 4.45 km from Podampeta to Gokharakuda.
The canines were feasting on the carcasses, exposing the loopholes in the surveillance apparatus.
Notably, over 50 forest department staff, members of Kaincha Surakhya Samiti (a turtle protection and conservation body) and dozens of volunteers have been deployed to ensure the safety of the turtles from nesting till the young ones retreat into the sea.
Monday being the full moon day, the damage to the turtle eggs and hatchling casualties were averted despite the high tide. However, the dogs were seen preying on the baby turtles yesterday.
“This is a sporadic incident. We have been keeping a vigil along the entire stretch during this mass nesting season. The turtles had strayed into some other areas for nesting. The dogs could have been eating those hatchlings,” a forest official asserted.
Notably, a record number of 3.20 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had laid eggs near Rushikulya this mass nesting season.
After maiden webcast of the mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles earlier this season, the wildlife wing of the Forest department of the state government is webcasting the unique phenomenon of hatchlings crawling out to the sea after emerging out from the sand pits along Rushikulya. The state government had launched the webcast as part of its efforts to reach out to a wider audience and lessen the crowd during the hatching period to ensure safety of the baby turtles.
However, the elaborate measures have clearly been futile as dogs were seen feeding on the hatchlings along the beaches.