Hundreds of hatchlings fall prey to crows and kites

At daybreak on Wednesday, thousands of olive ridley hatchlings emerged from sand pits on an islet located at the Rushikulya river mouth near here and one after another crawled into the Bay of Bengal, leaving the onlookers spellbound.

However, with few volunteers and Forest Department employees at work, the tiny turtles struggled to get into the water and, when the sun became harsh, were left high and dry on the sand.

As a result, hundreds of hatchlings were grabbed by crows and kites which had been hovering around. Locals and tourists were seen making desperate attempts to save as many hatchlings as they could.

Nets also prove fatal

Many other hatchlings were found dead on the islet and nearby beaches, having got entangled in rejected fishing nets.

It has not been a very good year for olive ridleys this time round. Only around one lakh turtles laid eggs on the islet near Gokharkuda village and the beaches near Kantiagada village this year, compared to 2.51 lakh last year.

Marine zoologists have not been able to assess the nesting behaviour of sea turtles. In 2007, there was no mass nesting on the Rushikulya rookery coast, while the previous year it had occurred twice on this beach.

The worst thing happened on Full Moon day a few days ago when high tides washed away a vast portion of the sandbar destroying the nests along with eggs, according to Rabindranath Sahu, secretary of the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee.

In recent years, the beaches near the Rushikulya river mouth have emerged as the main nesting ground for the endangered olive ridleys on the Odisha coast, the other major site being the Gahirmatha sanctuary area close to the Bhitarkanika National Park. Sea turtles have stopped laying eggs at another location near the Devi river mouth.