Despite the erosion of Gahirmatha Beach in Odisha's Kendrapara district, wildlife officials are optimistic about the convergence of lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles on the nesting ground for mass nesting any time within a fortnight.
Notwithstanding the eroded physical profile of the nesting beach at the Nasi-II Island, a large turnout of female turtles for laying eggs is expected. The mass nesting is likely to take place by the second week of March, said Bikash Chandra Dash, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division.
“The 2.6-km-long nesting beach has got bifurcated due to inundation by seawaters. Still, the shape of the beach is perfect for turtles to dig pits and lay eggs. The edge of the beach facing the sea is not steep and turtles will find it favourable to emerge from the seawaters to crawl on to the beach,” he said.
Strong southerly winds and temperatures ranging between 32 and 38 degrees Celsius are conducive for mass nesting of turtles, the DFO said, adding that a large congregation of turtles is waiting in the deep sea.
Every year, the marauding sea is eating up portions of the geographical boundary of Gahirmatha Beach in uninhabited Nasi-II Island, he said.
Only female turtles invade the nesting beaches usually at the dead of the night for laying eggs. This phenomenon is called ‘ arribada ’, he said.
After laying eggs, the mother turtles return to the sea. The hatchlings emerge from these eggs after 45-60 days.
It is a rare natural phenomenon where babies grow without their mothers, the official said.
Olive Ridley turtles turn up in millions for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year. Gahirmatha is acclaimed as the world's largest nesting ground of the reptiles.
Apart from Gahirmatha, these threatened reptiles also lay eggs at Rushikulya River mouth in Ganjam district and Devi River mouth in Puri district.
Around 7.30 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had laid eggs along the Odisha coast in 2019-20, with Gahirmatha hosting 4.5 lakh of them.