BERHAMPUR: Carcasses of hatchlings of Olive Ridleys hang from trees near the Rushikulya rookery coast. At times live hatchling drops from the sky at Ganjam town at a distance of around 10 km from sea coast.
None are to be blamed for it. All efforts are at full swing by the forest department and local volunteers to save the crores of hatchlings that are coming out from over 1,80,000 Olive Ridley nests on the five-km coast line near Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam district.
The volunteers, forest officials and even the tourists try hard to get each hatchling into the sea. The hatchlings are protected from predators like dogs, hyena and foxes. But nothing can be done to shoo away the crows, who flock in hundreds with an eye on the hatchlings during the hatching season on this coast. When the hatchlings move towards the sea, the crows target the slow moving, weak hatchlings. Then they pounce on them to over turn the hatchlings. Their next move is to pierce the soft portion on the belly of the hatchling and devour its insides. They even carry some small ones to their nests on trees and some of them are carried away to places like Ganjam town.
These tiny hatchlings on their way to sea after hatching also fall prey to crabs on the beach at wee hours when the light is low. Crabs drag their targeted hatchling to their hole and kill it by throttling its neck. Then they savour its meat. Hawks also fly around to pick up a hatchling or two in a single swoop.
Volunteers try to shoo away these natural predators with crackers and loud shouts. Young children like Paranitansu, who visit the beach to watch hatchlings’ journey to sea cannot tolerate death of young turtles at the beaks of crows. They try and save a few but at last accept the rule of nature. The conservationists working on the beach like R.N.Sahu also accept it.
They say they are trying to reduce the natural mortality rate of hatchlings but the ‘food chain of nature’ cannot be stopped completely and survival of the fittest is the rule of nature. That is why only one in each 1000 hatchling survives to become mature Olive Ridley despite all efforts to protect them and their eggs during nesting and hatching.