KENDRAPARA: Ahead of the mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles, beaches off Gahirmatha coast have turned into graveyard for these delicate marine animals with thousands of decomposed carcasses spotted along a shoreline.
Decomposed carcasses of the Olive Ridley sea turtles were spotted along the shoreline right from Dhamra to Paradip coming under Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, habitation corridors of these endangered species.
"Around 1,000 carcasses have so far been counted. Forest staff doing patrolling duty at 16 camps are counting the dead.
The carcasses sighted at the tourist spots are being buried", a forest official said.
The sighting of the animals' carcasses at tourists' spot in Pentha, Hukitola and Paradip have made the beautiful beaches wearing a wretched look.
"The department has received reports of turtles' carcasses being washed ashore. The department is initiating measures on war footing to arrest the mortality rate", divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove Forest (wildlife) Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya, said.
"It's a horrific sight. The motionless carcasses of these aquatic animals are strewn along the sandy beaches in tourist spots. The spectre of death is being witnessed since the past ten days.
"The number could exceed in the coming days unless illegal trawling activities are curbed," tourist operator Shyamanand Patra said.
It is suspected that turtles are perishing due to trawl fishing. The species are often killed after getting entangled in fishing nets or getting hit by trawl propellers.
"A patrolling drive has been intensified to curb illegal fishing in turtles' habitation sea-zones. So far 35 fishing trawls have been impounded and 143 crew arrested", the DFO said.
The beach at Paradip wears a ghastly look with bloated and decomposed carcasses being eaten up by stray dogs, he said.
"As majority of carcasses are yet to be buried, stray dogs are acting as scavenging agents eating up the carcasses", he said.
Wildlife activists blame the fishing trawlers for the sorry state of affairs, saying when the turtles get entangled in speeding fishing trawlers and gill nets, the fishermen kill them with hammer blows to keep their costly nylon intact.
After the animal is killed, the carcass is thrown into the sea. PTI