Odisha: After record nesting, millions of endangered Olive ridley sea turtles begin to hatch out of eggshells

Following successful incubation after record nesting of the endangered Olive ridley sea turtles at the islands of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, millions of hatchlings are coming out of the confines of their egg shells to plunge into the waters of the Bay of Bengal and commence their marine lives. Read on to know more about these ecologically vulnerable turtles.

Ashis SenapatiAshis Senapati   10 May 2022 4:01 PM GMT

Odisha: After record nesting, millions of endangered Olive ridley sea turtles begin to hatch out of eggshells

Human activities such as reckless fishing, tourism and exploitation of nesting beaches for infrastructural projects pose a serious threat to these turtles. All photos by arrangement

Almost a month after the small islands in Odisha's Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary became the site of the largest ever recorded number of nesting by more than half a million Olive ridley turtles, their hatchlings have begun to come out of their egg shells buried in pits within the sandy beaches.

"A total of 501,157 Olive ridley sea turtles laid eggs from March 25 to march 28 at Gahirmatha. A female turtle lays around 80 to 100 eggs at a time. We are happy to inform you that the hatchlings have now begun to come out of the shells and are entering the sea waters. The first hatchlings were observed on the night of May 9," JD Pati, the Divisional Forest Officer of the Kendrapara district's Bhitarkanika National Park of which the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is a part of, informed Gaon Connection.

"The female turtles dragged their great weight (about 50 kilogrammes) ashore, dug a nest with her back flippers, deposited about a hundred eggs, covered and concealed the nest before returning to the sea. The eggs incubate in the warm sand and the female turtle never visits her nest again to take care of the eggs or the hatchlings," the official added.

The forester further informed Gaon Connection that after 40 to 45 days of laying of eggs by the female turtles, baby turtles measuring about two inches hatched out and emerged in a group from their nests comforted by the cool breeze at night and scurried down the beach to sea water.

The news of an unprecedented hatchling of the endangered sea turtles comes to the delight of the wildlife enthusiasts and experts who have been engaged in the conservation efforts of the marine species.

Forest guards deployed, lights at missile test range masked

It is learnt that forest guards have been deployed to check the predators like dogs, jackals, birds and other animals from feeding on the turtles' hatchlings while they emerge from their shells.

A forest official told Gaon Connection on the condition of anonymity that bright lights from the Missile Test Range (MTR) at the Abdul Kalam Island (formerly known as Wheeler's Island) near the Gahirmatha beach pose the risk of disorienting the turtle hatchlings and instead of crawling towards the sea the baby turtles disorient towards the land areas and invite instant death.

Also Read:Odisha: Zoological Survey of India tags 6,500 Olive ridley sea turtles to know more about the endangered species

"To protect the baby turtles the defence personnel masked the bright light of the missile testing site after which the millions of baby turtles safely crawled from the pits to the sea water," the official said.

The high breeding rate of a female Olive ridley sea turtle is juxtaposed by a high mortality rate of the baby turtles in the sea water and out of a thousand baby turtles only one turtle survives to attain adulthood.

Interestingly, after reaching about 20 years of age, the baby turtles revisit the same beach they were born on and engage in mating and the female turtle lays eggs following fertilisation.

Odisha home to world's largest Olive ridley nesting site

The protected Gahiramatha beach is the world's largest nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles. These magnificent marine reptiles, which are recognised by their olive green coloured shells are known for their huge arribadas (Spanish word for egg-laying episodes.

"The nesting of sea turtles is one of nature's most amazing spectacles. The sea turtle is without a doubt the most important attraction at the Odisha's coast," Pati, the forest officer said.

The rookery at Gahirmatha which is spread over 1,435 square kilometres from Dhamra mouth to Hukitola island was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997.

Also Read: Odisha: Turtle smuggling racket busted, 140 reptiles seized in Malkangiri

"This was done to protect the endangered turtles under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 as a Scheduled I animal. This year, the state government imposed a seven month ban order on fishing activities inside the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary from 1st November to 31st May to protect the turtles," added the forest officer.

Meanwhile, Hemant Rout, the secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society told Gaon Connection that effluents released from prawn farms, fertiliser plants and other industries along the coast are affecting the micro-fauna of the coastal region, thus affecting the food chain of the sea turtles including the baby turtles.

"Fast vanishing mangrove forests of the shore have also an adverse impact on the feeding and breeding pattern of the baby and adult turtles," he added.

#Odisha Olive Ridley #Turtles #wildlife #story 

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