KENDRAPARA: Much to the delight of turtle lovers and researchers, the long-awaited mass-nesting phenomenon of Olive Ridley Sea turtles started on Saturday night at the tranquil beach of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.
Around 15,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles came ashore for mass-nesting at Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within Bhitarkanika National Park for ‘Arribada’, a Spanish term for mass-nesting, said DFO of Bhitarkanika Bikash Ranjan Dash.
Last year around 4.70 lakh Olive Ridleys had nested from February 26 to March 7 on the two islands. The phenomenon was delayed due to untimely rains and bad weather this year, he said.
The turtles which had already congregated in the sea near Gahirmatha beach came ashore for nesting in groups of 2,000 to 4,000 each. Nasi -1 and 2 are two tiny islands spread over an area of 5 km.
A small strip of the islands provide an ideal nesting place for the turtles owing to absence of predators or human habitation.
The ‘Arribada’ would continue for a week. The turtle eggs normally take 45 days to hatch. After the eggs are hatched, tiny hatchlings would emerge and make their way to the sea, said the DFO.
Around 30 forest officials including forest guards have been entrusted with the task of guarding the nesting beach and the sea to protect the turtles and their eggs.
The state government has imposed a ban on fishing inside the marine sanctuary from November 1 last year to May 31 to protect the turtles.
The rookery at Gahirmatha, spread over 1,435 sq km from Dhamra mouth to Hukitola island was declared a marine sanctuary by the Government in 1997 to protect the endangered species.