KENDRAPARA: Breaking a 17-year record, a staggering 6.64 lakh Olive Ridleys laid eggs at Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary from March 8 to 12. The five-day mass nesting of the endangered sea turtles on Nasi- 1 and Nasi- 2 islands within the sanctuary came to an end on Monday night.
Last year, 6.04 lakh turtles had laid eggs at Gahiramatha from February 22 to March 3. However, mass nesting of the turtles started on March 8 this year.In fact, the combined figure of mass nesting at Rushikulya and Gahirmatha has crossed 1 million this time which is yet another record for the State.
“We initially thought the Olive Ridleys might skip the nesting site this year. However, putting an end to our speculations, the turtles arrived in large numbers,” said Forest Range Officer of Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary Subrat Patra. The delay in arrival of the turtles this year was due to bad weather and unfavourable conditions in the sea, he said.
“Female turtles take about 20 years to sexually mature and produce eggs. We believe that Gahiramatha witnessed a record number of Olive Ridleys this year because the baby turtles, who were born on the same beach two decades back, are now old enough to come back and lay eggs,” Patra said and added that the last time the number of Olive Ridleys nested in such a high number was in 2000 when 7,1,1500 turtles laid eggs on Gahiramatha beach.
To protect the turtle eggs from dogs, jackals, wild boars and other predators, the Forest department has cordoned off the nesting beaches of Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands with fences. “We have also deployed Forest guards to prevent entry of any predators to the nesting sites. Hatchlings will emerge from the eggs after 45 days and find their way to the sea,” Patra added.
The arrival of more than half a million Olive Ridleys at Gahiramatha this year reflects the successful conservation efforts since the sea turtles were put on the endangered species list and declared as a Schedule 1 animal in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Environmentalist and president of Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (MTMCS), Kendrapara Hemant Rout said protection measures put in place by the Forest officials and other Government and non-Government agencies have helped in attracting turtles in large numbers this year.