Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Chhatrapur, May 4:
In a rare spectacle that would delight any wildlife lover, lakhs of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings are crawling their way into the sea before dawn on Odisha’s Ganjam coast.
A record number of 3.20 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had laid eggs near Rushikulya river rookery spread over an area of around 4.45 km from Podampeta to Gokharakuda by the end of the mass nesting season in March this year.
Despite several eggs having been destroyed and washed away due to the high tidal waves, lakhs of hatchlings are breaking out of their eggs using a small temporary tooth located on their snout called a carbuncle, setting a new record in the process.
For the first time, 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 of the Rushikulya rookery to provide wildlife lovers view the phenomenon without going to the site. The webcast can be accessed at odishawildlife.com.
The department had also webcast mass nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles earlier in the season.
“The webcast will help reduce the crowd in the rookery during the hatching period,” said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Brahmapur S S Mishra.
Forces have been deployed in the rookery to control the crowd in the spot. The phenomenon is likely to continue for some more days, which started on Thursday, he said.
“The emergence of the baby turtles from the sand pits is recorded early in the morning and then uploaded on the website,” the DFO said.
Research scholars and professionals in Information Technology (IT) have been engaged for the purpose, he added.
Chief secretary GC Pati, Energy secretary Suresh Mohapatra, development commissioner U N Behera and additional chief secretary AP Padhi visited Podampeta on Saturday night to watch the process of hatchlings breaking out of their egg shells.
Forest officials said they had taken adequate steps for protection of the baby turtles. Besides deployment of forest staff, the services of local volunteers and fishermen have also been requisitioned for protection of the baby turtles, they said.
The baby turtles who lose direction are collected by forest staff and volunteers in buckets and released in the sea immediately, he said.
“Our department has requested the authorities to switch off the street lights since baby turtles might get attracted towards the light and fall prey to predators,“ Forest officials said.