Millions of Olive Ridley hatchlings emerge from nests in Orissa

April 26th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by admin  

By Jatindra Dash
Rushikulya beach (Orissa), April 26 (IANS) In what is one of the most breathtaking sights of nature, millions of Olive Ridley baby turtles broke out of their eggshells under the sand at one of their mass nesting ground in coastal Orissa. After emerging from the nests in the Rushikulya river mouth, in the southern district of Ganjam, some 175 km from Bhubaneswar, the hatchlings started their journey towards the Bay of Bengal, forest officer Surendra Biswal told IANS.

Orissa is home to three mass nesting sites of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, namely Nasi Islands of Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapada district, Devi river mouth in Puri district and the Rushikulya river mouth.

Gahirmatha is considered one of world’s largest nesting sites with around 700,000-800,000 turtles laying eggs on the beach every year. However, no mass nesting has been reported from Gahirmatha and Devi river mouth so far this year.

“At least 170,000 turtles came to 4.2 km stretch of Rushikulya beach on March 4 for mass nesting and returned to the sea,” Biswal said.

The female turtles drag her great weight ashore, dig a nest with her back flippers, deposit about a hundred eggs, cover and conceal the nest before returning to the sea.

“The eggs incubate in the warm sand and the female turtles never visit the nest again to take care of the eggs or the hatchlings,” he said. A female turtle lays at least 120 to 150 eggs in one go.

“Hatchlings emerge from the eggs after 45-60 days. It is one of nature’s rare phenomenon that babies grow without their mother,” he said.

It is believed that the Olive Ridley turtles return to the same beach to nest where they were hatched.

Mass hatchling here started Wednesday and all the baby turtles will go to the sea within a day or two. “We have taken all care to ensure that the baby turtles go (to the sea) without any harm,” Biswal said.

“We have engaged at least 52 villagers and forest guards to protect the baby turtles.”

In the recent times, sea erosion has led to many turtles’ nests being damaged. Predators like dogs, jackals and birds have taken their toll on the nesting of turtles. Mechanised trawlers along the coast also play a role in the massacre of thousands of these omnivorous sea turtles.

“We have removed all the boats from the sea near the nesting site for the smooth journey of turtles from their nests to the sea,” Biswal added.

“Like tigers and elephants, the Olive Ridley turtle is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. They should be protected at any cost,” Biswajit Mohanty, coordinator of the turtle conservation group Operation Kachhapa, told IANS.

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