Mass nesting of sea turtles begins in Odisha

Mass nesting of sea turtles begins in Odisha

Highly endangered olive ridley sea turtles have begun mass nesting on the sea beaches located inside Gahirmatha marine and wildlife sanctuary in Odisha’s coastal Kendrapara district.

The Gahirmatha nesting ground is considered the biggest in the world for these rare sea animals. “In the last few days, about 70,000 to 80,000 olive ridley turtles have already started annual mass nesting. The process is expected to continue for a week,” said an official in the forest division looking after the world famous marine and wildlife sanctuary.

The development has assumed significance as many experts and officials in the state Forest and Environment Department apprehend that the turtles would not turn up and skip the mass nesting in Gahirmatha for the second consecutive year. There was no mass nesting in 2014.

The turtles had also not visited their favourite nesting ground in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. In 2013, as many as four lakh olive ridley turtles laid eggs at Gahirmatha.

About 50 to 60 forest department personnel have been deployed to guard the nesting ground to protect the turtle eggs from predators like sea gulls, crows, dogs and jackals. The Odisha government has also imposed a ban on fishing  near the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary so that the turtles can move to the nesting ground easily.

According to Forest Department sources, 120 fishermen have already been arrested and 35 fishing trawlers seized for illegal fishing activities near Gahirmatha during the current turtle season.

Defence officials have also switched off powerful lights of the missile testing centre at nearby Wheelers Island in neighbouring Bhadrak district to facilitate the turtle mass nesting at Gahirmatha. The highly sensitive marine species arrive on the nesting ground in the darkness of the night and return to sea before sunrise after laying their eggs.

Reports of mass nesting have also come from another turtle rookery on the Odisha coastline located at the mouth of the river Rusikulya in southern Odisha’s Ganjam district.

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