Much to the delight of wildlife lovers, Olive Ridley turtles have arrived in hordes at Gahirmatha beach here for their annual mass nesting.
The one-km beach stretching Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands, close to the Wheeler’s Island, is now teeming with turtles digging pits with their flippers and laying eggs. The mass nesting began on Tuesday night and about 2.10 lakh Olive Ridleys were spotted laying eggs, Forest Department sources said.
Laying of eggs would go on for a week. Earlier, forest officials were apprehensive that the turtles would skip their visit to the islands this year.
The officials are now of the view that the number of visiting turtles would go up in the coming days with the climate remaining conducive.
Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, DFO, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division, said to ensure safety of the turtles, a 600-metre net barricade has been installed along the casuarina forest close to nesting ground. Wildlife officials are on round-the-clock vigil to keep predators like jackals, hyena and wild dogs away, he said.
According to DRDO, under whose jurisdiction the Nasi islands come, visitors and outsiders are barred and only forest personnel on turtle protection duty have access to the nesting ground. Gahirmatha beach on the Bay of Bengal coast with its ideal beach topography is acclaimed as the world’s largest-known rookery of the Olive Ridleys.
“It is a virtual treat to watch the endangered species making their nocturnal visits. Emerging from the seawaters, they head towards the sandy beaches making some kind of noise,” an official on turtle protection duty said adding after laying their eggs in the pits dug by them, the turtles stay more than an hour before undertaking their seaward journey. An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs, which are incubated in the nest and the hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 50 days.