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Turtles begin mass nesting - Around 4000 Olive Ridleys lay eggs on Tuesday night

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SUNIL PATNAIK   |   Published 01.03.12, 12:00 AM

Berhampur, Feb. 29: Mass nesting of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles began at the mouth of Rushikulya river in Ganjam last night.

Around 4,000 Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs on Tuesday night, though sporadic nesting had been taking place since February 17, said Rabindra Kumar Sahu, secretary of the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee.

Last year, 2.53 lakh marine turtles had laid eggs at the mouth of Rushikulya river, while the number of nesting turtles was 2.10 lakh and 1.80 lakh in the last two years. This year, the mass nesting of the Olive Ridley sea turtles is taking place on an island beach for the first time.

“The 2.2 km island beach stretch is situated between two river mouths at Podempeta and Purunabandha. The other two sides of the island beach is waterlogged by the Bay of Bengal and Rushikulya river on the other side. One has to cross a distance of about 100 metres across the Rushikulya river to reach the island beach,” said Sahu.

“The inaccessible island beach will restrict visitors, who come to witness the mass nesting every year. It will also stop the predator dogs and jackals to eat the turtle eggs. But there are chances of soil erosion in the island beach during full moon and new moon. The high tidal wave on these two days may wash away the eggs,” he said.

There has been a large congregation of these endangered turtles in the sea near the mouth of Rushikulya for mass nesting. “We expect that mass nesting will continue till the first week of March. The number of nesting turtles is expected to cross 2.5 lakh this year,” said a wildlife activist.

Members of the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee of Purunabandha village near the Rushikulya river mouth have been guarding the sea turtles during mass nesting. Many of them were associated with the Wildlife Institute of India’s sea turtle project along the Odisha coast. Four research scholars from the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India are camping at the Rushikulya nesting site for the past few days to study the behaviour of the Olive Ridley turtles. Illegal entry of fishing trawlers to this region is being checked through sea patrolling.

“We are using a boat and a rented trawler to carry out patrolling,” said divisional forest officer A.K. Jena.

Experts from the Odisha forest and environment department and the Wildlife Institute of India first spotted the mass-nesting site of Olive Ridley sea turtles at the mouth of Rushikulya in 1993.

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