Monday, 30th October 2017

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Olive ridley turtles seen on Odisha beach

Mating season at Gahirmatha, world’s largest-known nesting ground for these turtles

By Our Correspondent in Kendrapara
  • Published 31.10.18, 12:24 AM
  • Updated 31.10.18, 12:24 AM
  • 2 mins read
Turtles at the Gahirmatha beach. Telegraph picture

Pairs of olive ridley sea turtles have begun emerging on the swirling seawaters off Gahirmatha marking the commencement of annual natural heritage of mass nesting of these endangered marine species.

Forest personnel on patrolling drives have sighted pairs of mating turtles.

The sighting of breeding turtles marks the commencement of mass nesting season of these delicate marine species.

Gahirmatha beach is incidentally acclaimed as world’s largest-known nesting ground of these animals. Apart from Gahirmatha, these threatened aquatic animals turn up at Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth for mass nesting. An estimated 6.57 lakh female turtles had turned to dig pit and lay millions of eggs on the nesting beach during March this year.

“On the serene surface of sea waters, the turtle surveying teams spotted hundreds of mating pairs along the Gahirmatha coast. Fishing prohibition is presently clamped in Gahirmatha zone to ensure disturbance-free mating of the marine animals. After the end of the mating season, most of the male turtles usually return back leaving behind the female turtles to lay their eggs,” said divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest officer, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.

“The female turtles virtually invade the nesting beaches usually at the dead of the night for laying eggs, the phenomenon is described as “arribada”. After indulgence in instinctive egg-laying, the turtles leave the nesting ground to stride into the deep sea water. Hatchlings emerge from these eggs after 45-60 days. It is a rare natural phenomenon where the babies grow without their mother,” the forest officer said.

The ban on sea fishing remains in force round the year in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary as the seawater here is the most conducive habitat for these delicate marine species.

“Rise in mortality rate of mating turtles along the coastal water surface led to the clamping of prohibition as the gill nets used by the trawls prove to be messenger of death for breeding turtles. The mute species, accorded as schedule-1 animal under the Wildlife Protection Act for its highly threatened status, get entangled in the nets and die of asphyxiation. The turtles also perish in large number after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the fishing trawlers,” the forest personnel said.

The rate of mortality of these endangered species is quite high. An olive ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 60 days. But not all eggs remain intact as predators devour it.