BERHAMPUR: All preparations to facilitate mass nesting of Olive Ridleys at Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam district proved futile as the turtles did not turn up in large numbers at the beach this year. The endangered sea turtles reach the coast for mating between November and second week of January every year. After 45 days, they reach the beach to lay eggs. This year, turtles in large numbers reached the coast for mass nesting, but they did not turn up at Rushikulya beach. Experts said unfavourable climatic condition may be the reason behind it. Mass nesting though has already started at Gahirmatha coast in Kendrapara district.
This is not the first time that turtles skipped Rushikulya for laying eggs. In 2002, 2007 and 2016 too they were not seen on Ganjam beach. This year also the beach is not witnessing mass nesting. Only sporadic nesting has been seen during the last one month. According to forest official records, around 4.75 lakh Olive Ridleys nested on the beach of Rushikulya last year. However, only 2,256 Olive Ridleys have nested till date this year.
The Forest department had made all arrangements, including establishment of observation camps, fencing of coast with nets and patrolling in sea for protection of Olive Ridleys and their eggs during mass nesting. Rabindra Sahu, who has been working on protection of sea turtles for the last three decades, said mass nesting of Olive Ridleys can occur up to any time till the end of April.
The department has reportedly set up six artificial hatcheries to incubate eggs resulting from sporadic nesting. Besides, net fences cover five km from Gokharkuda to Prayagi to protect Olive Ridleys and their eggs from predators and human intervention. Similarly, a three-km stretch on another site of Ganjam district from Sonapur to Anantapur near Bahuda river mouth was fenced. Despite the fencing, no mass nesting was witnessed.
Locals said erosion on the beach creates hurdle for turtles to dig up sand to lay eggs. However, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientist Bivash Pandav said sea erosion cannot be the reason for turtles skipping mass nesting in Rushikulya as they had been seen climbing sand walls higher than the ones formed here. Although the gestation period is around 50 days, the female Olive Ridleys have capacity to keep fertilised eggs inside their body for some more time till they get proper environment and location to lay eggs, he added.
On the other hand, net fences from Gokhorkuda to New Podampeta have vanished and predators such as dogs and boars were found feasting on newborn turtles of sporadic nesting. The forest officials have so far seized 551 Olive Ridley carcasses.