Bringing down curtains to a sunny day, cool breezes hover over the pristine beach near Uppada Kothapalli from where Olive Ridley hatchlings began their new journey into the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.
One of the six in situ conservation centres for the endangered species arranged by the district forest officials abutting the shore turned into a hub of activity with a battery of officials and nature lovers turning up for the evening. Black in colour and a few inches of size, the lightweight hatchlings made their way into the gushing waters from the very moment of their release into the beach. Personnel from the Forest Department brought hundreds of little ones in special treys and handed them over to the officials for the ceremonial release. Having their origin at the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Olive Ridley turtles come to the shores of the Bay of Bengal only to lay their eggs between December and April every year. Though Gahirmatha in Odisha is the preferred location for their nestling, many turtles stop by in the intermediate beaches, lay their eggs and return to their source location.
Each female dug a sandpit, lays 90 to 120 eggs and promptly closes the pit before leaving the shore. They never bothered about protecting the eggs from the predators such as dogs and jackals. Here comes the role of the Forest Department, which has been taking care of the conservation part.
“We have arranged six in situ conservation locations in the district, from where about 1.75 lakh hatchlings are expected to be released into the Bay of Bengal,” said Kartikeya Misra, District Collector. Along with DFO Anant Shankar and Commissioner of Rajamahendravaram Municipal Corporation Sumit Kumar Gandhi, he released the hatchlings into the sea.
“The Olive Ridley turtles come here by Christmas every year. Owing to the cyclone Phethai, there has been a three-week delay this year and the nestling began only after the Pongal,” said Mr. Anant Shankar, while observing that the releases would be continued in the month of May too.
“We have deployed well- trained personnel to all the six locations and arranged 24X7 security, so as to protect the nestlings. Last year we have released about 1.5 lakh hatchlings and there is a possible increase in the number this year,” he said. Nature lovers joined hands with the forest personnel in releasing the hatchlings into the beach and captured images and videos of the tiny ones leaving for their oceans.