Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rajnagar/Ganjam, Mar 13:
Mass nesting of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles has begun at the Nasi beach under Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary limits in Odisha’s Kendrapara district and river Rushikulya mouth in Ganjam district since late on Wednesday night.
The sea turtles, which had skipped returning to Gahirmatha, the largest rookery in the world, last year, arrived this year in droves, bringing much relief to turtle researchers and wildlife officials.
As per a preliminary estimate, the turtles laid around 12,000 eggs at the Nasi-II beach on the first day, a Rajnagar forest official said. The mass nesting of the turtles began a bit late this year, he said.
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, the official said.
Mass nesting of the turtles also began near river Rushikulya mouth in Ganjam district on Wednesday, though a bit behind schedule.
Wildlife officials had witnessed sporadic nesting of turtles at Rushikulya nesting ground where around 1200 female turtles had laid eggs on March 1 night. However, the annual nesting affair was again witnessed late on Wednesday night when around 45000 turtles laid eggs.
Wildlife experts have attributed the late onset of nesting season to the slow wind speed this year.
“The condition of the river bed as well as the climatic condition is very conducive for nesting. The mass nesting has started in time and we expect it to continue for next some days,” said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Brahmapur SS Mishra.
Rushikulya mouth is the second largest nesting site after Gahiramatha.
The turtles thronged the coasts and were seen afloat along 1km from the beach between January last week and mid February. However, the number of visitors is less this year as compared to previous years.
Around 1, 82, 000 Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs by the mid of March last year. This number is expected to dip this year, a source said.
“Several measures have been initiated to protect the eggs and for safe nesting along the beaches. The entire 4.5-km-long stretch of beach is divided into 33 sectors and is being fenced to prevent the entry of visitors,” said the DFO.
Around 175 persons, including forest personnel, wildlife activists and villagers were engaged in round the clock vigil of the Olive Ridley turtles and their eggs. The protection would continue for next 50 days till the hatching takes place, the DFO said.
Roughly around 100-150 eggs are laid by a female turtle and the mothers desert the hatchlings before they come out of the eggs, about 45 to 50 days of the nesting.
It may be noted that the Bhitarkanika forest officials imposed a six-month ban on fishing up to 20 km off the shore between November and May every year to protect them from being crushed under mechanised trawlers and entangled in their fishing nets.