BERHAMPUR: Odisha has escaped being hit by Cyclone 'Asani', but the high tide under its influence and the resulting erosion has washed away thousands of eggs of Olive Ridley turtles from the mass nesting site at the mouth of Rushikulya river off Ganjam coast.
The erosion in the land mass at the river mouth due to Cyclone Asani near Podampeta in southern Odisha's Ganjam district was more than in other beaches in the river mouth, said Amlan Nayak, the divisional forest officer (DFO), Berhampur on Thursdsay.
Due to the erosion around 15 to 20 per cent of the record 5.5 lakh eggs laid by the sea turtles in the five km-long nesting site from March 28 to April 4 might have been damaged, a senior forest department official said.
Nayak, who visited the nesting site on Wednesday, said the forest department will be able to provide the number of Olive Ridley turtle eggs lost due to Cyclone Asani only after the review meeting to be held on May 14.
He said several damaged eggs were seen lying on the beach, which was lashed by high tidal waves since the last two days when the sea was very rough.
Since the sea condition was rough due to the cyclonic storm during the period, the DFO feared that more eggs might have been damaged.
Moreover, the eggs cannot survive in the sea if they are washed away, the DFO said.
A female Olive Ridley turtle buries her eggs in sand pits in the beach after laying them.
Though there were sporadic sighting of hatchlings emerging in the mass nesting sites for the last few days, the forest officials expected that the baby turtles might emerge in large numbers from the pits of the rookery in the next one week.
The eggs generally hatch after 40 to 45 days of nesting.
Last year, the mass nesting of the turtles could not take place in the Rushikulya river mouth due unknown reasons.
"This time, we are expecting more baby turtles to emerge in the rookery as a record number of female turtles laid eggs," said Rabindra Nath Sahu, secretary, Ganjam district turtle protection committee.
At Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district thousands of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings have emerged from eggs in the past 36 hours and were seen to be crawling to the Bay of Bengal.
This year, around 5.01 lakh marine turtles arrived at Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapara district for over four days since March 25 for the mass nesting, he said.
The whole of Nasi-2 Island is teeming with baby Olive Ridley turtles crawling on the beach as they make their way to the sea.
Wildlife officials of Bhitarkanika National Park stationed at these nesting grounds are the sole witnesses to this unique natural phenomenon in which the baby turtles are born without the presence of their mothers.
Tourists and researchers have been denied entry like in other years.
This phenomenon will last for at least seven to ten days, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) DFO J D Pati said.
The Odisha coast is the world's largest nesting ground of the Olive Ridley Turtles.
But off late there is erosion by the sea in the beaches which has adversely affected the turtle habitat, official sources said.