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Hopes for mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles at Rushikulya increase

Olive Ridley turtles begin arriving for mass mating at the sea near Rushikulya rookery from November.

Olive Ridley turtles begin arriving for mass mating at the sea near Rushikulya rookery from November.   | Photo Credit: BiswaranjanRout

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‘Large crowd mating’ observed in the sea off the famous Odisha rookery

“Large crowd mating” of Olive Ridley turtle couples in the sea near the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast over the last leg of a continuing mass mating occurrence has increased hopes for mass nesting at this coast later this year.

In 2019, mass nesting of the enigmatic marine reptiles did not occur at the Rushikulya rookery, a major mass nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles on the Indian coast. However, in 2018, there was double mass nesting at this coast, in February and April, with over 4,73,000 nests totally.

Numbers spike

Olive Ridley turtles begin arriving for mass mating at the sea near Rushikulya rookery from November. Their mating numbers spike up and reach their peak from December 15 to January 15. Although the peak mass mating season is about to end, hundreds of pairs of mating sea turtles can still be seen in the sea, at distance of about 5 km from the coast.

After mating, male turtles turn back, while the females remain at the sea near the rookery for mass nesting, which usually starts in the third week of February.

Sporadic nesting by about a dozen mother Olive Ridleys has already occurred alongside the mass mating. “The eggs collected from the sporadic nesting sites are incubated in artificial hatcheries of the Forest Department,” said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Amlan Nayak. Eleven artificial hatcheries have come up at the Rushikulya rookery for safe incubation of Olive Ridley eggs that are laid before mass nesting commences.

Preparations

In February, wire fencing will be erected on a stretch of over 5 km to protect nests and eggs during a mass nesting. The Forest Department has already set up 11 on-shore camps over a 5 km stretch of beach from Purunabandha to Prayagi near the mouth of the Rushikulya river. Personnel at these camps regularly document conditions, protect the beach, track debris deposited by the sea, stop the entry of predators like stray dogs, and look out for turtle carcasses that may float to the coast.

The sea near this coast is regularly patrolled by two trawlers, two speedboats and a country boat, to prevent harm to Olive Ridleys from illegal fishing trawlers. Local villagers and social organisations are helping clean this stretch of coast every alternate day.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 9:34:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/hopes-for-mass-nesting-of-olive-ridley-turtles-at-rushikulya-increase/article30524628.ece

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