Mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles draws to a close at Rushikulya

The Forest Department has commenced measures to protect the eggs from predators, and human intervention

April 01, 2020 09:39 pm | Updated 09:39 pm IST - BERHAMPUR

Although sporadic nesting still continues, mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles has ended at the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast.

Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Amlan Nayak said 3,23,063 mother Olive Ridley turtles nested this year at the major nesting site. The mass nesting process began in the wee hours of March 21 and continued till the night of March 28.

The total number of turtles nesting at the Rushikulya rookery coast this year will be higher than the enumerated mass nesting number. The sporadic nesting that occurred before the start of the mass nesting process, and the nesting that is continuing after it, are not included in the numbers under mass nesting, said the DFO.

Day-time nesting

This year, Olive Ridley turtles displayed the unusual phenomenon of day-time nesting at the Rushikulya rookery on March 21. This was last seen at the beach in 2013.

Most Olive Ridley turtles near this coast have already begun their return journey, which can be several hundreds of kilometres long. Tracking in the past has shown that some of the turtles arrive for nesting at Rushikulya from far away places such as the coast of Sri Lanka.

A small number of turtles are still to be seen near the Rushikulya rookery. They may opt for sporadic nesting over the next few days.

Mother Olive Ridleys lay eggs in nests dug up in the beach sand. Each nest on average contains around 100 eggs. The eggs hatch in about 45 days. The incubation period gets lengthened by a few days if the temperature of the sand is lowered by climatic changes such as rain.

Keeping watch

The Forest Department has commenced measures to protect the eggs from predators, and human intervention. Metal net fencing has been set up over 5 km from Gokharkuda to Bateswar, and the area that has been divided into 50 segments for regular watching.

Eggs collected from Olive Ridley nests outside the mass nesting region are being safely incubated in six artificial hatcheries established at Rushikulya, said Mr. Nayak.

No one other than pre-identified local volunteers and forest officials is allowed on the beach, as the fragile eggs can break if stepped upon. The ongoing lockdown has eased the work for forest officials in this regard. Nevertheless, along with the help of the local police, a strict watch is being kept at places like Bateswar, Gokharkuda and Purunabnadh, from where humans are known to enter the mass nesting beach.

Mass nesting has occurred at the Rushikulya rookery after a gap of one year. In 2019, mass nesting did not take place on this coast. But in 2018, the unusual phenomenon of double mass nesting was observed between February and April, with the total nesting figures rising over 4,73,000 then.

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