Despite a delayed start, mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles has begun near Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district, the second biggest nesting site in the State for the endangered species.

Since Monday, about 6,000 female Olive Ridleys crawled out of the sea to the 5-km long beach between Gokharakuda to Kantiagada near the mouth of the river, about 45 km from here and scooped out holes to lay eggs, Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer A.K. Jena said.

The turtles then covered the holes with sand before disappearing into the waves.

The delayed nesting — a month later than it was last year — was, however, not “unusual”, the DFO said.

Though the exact cause of the delay in mass nesting was not known, environmentalists, however, apprehended that the late nesting could harm the eggs due to beach erosion.

During summer, sea waves are high and wind speed is fierce causing rapid erosion of the beach which can cause the eggs to be damaged, a wildlife expert said.

“Whenever the mass nesting occurs in the second week of March, large number of eggs get destroyed”, he said.

The eggs will take between 30-45 days to hatch.

Over two lakh sea turtles had laid eggs from February 14 on the Rushikulya beach last year.

Besides forest personnel, local volunteers and the police have been guarding the area to protect the eggs and turtles from predators like kites, jackals and wild dogs, the DFO said.

“We hope the mass nesting will continue for some more days as a number of turtles are still in the sea waiting to crawl ashore”, he said.

Around two lakh Olive Ridleys had converged at the Gahiramatha beach, said to be the world’s largest rookery for these turtles, in Kendrapara district in the last week of February to lay eggs.

The turtles, however, have stayed away from the Devi river mouth in Puri district so far which is known as another major nesting site for the creatures.