As many as 10 Olive Ridley turtles have been hatched at Mandapam near here.
The first of the 107 eggs, which were collected and kept in a natural environment on January 5 by the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GMMNP) officials, hatched at 5.45 a.m. on Tuesday. Other turtles emerged from the eggs one by one with a 30-minute gap.
Though there have been reports of natural hatching observed along the Tamil Nadu coast in the recent past, the attempt of GMMNP of the State Forest Department enabling the turtle eggs to hatch in a ‘natural environment' is considered a first since the inception of GMMNP.
The first batch of a clutch hatched after 55 days of incubation.
A group of fishermen had spotted a clutch of 107 eggs along with the mother Olive Ridley Turtle on the south shore of Mandapam on January 5.
After releasing the mother turtle into the sea, GOMMNP officials took the eggs to the Forest Range office at Mandapam where they were layered in a hole one and a half metres deep.
Shore sand, which was collected from the site of nesting beach, was kept beneath the eggs to replicate the natural environment.
A fence was put up to prevent human disturbance and safeguard them from predators.
Since the eggs needed a temperature of between 28 and 32 degree Celsius, the authorities lit a bulb during the night for providing warmth. The eggs were monitored on a daily basis.
“All newborn Olive Ridley turtles are hale and healthy and very active. They weigh around 50 grams. They were all let into the sea within an hour of hatching,” M. Sundarakumar, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.
Experts say the incubation period is usually between 45 and 51 days under natural conditions, but may extend to 70 days in poor weather conditions.
Eggs incubated at temperatures of 31-32 degrees Celsius will produce only females and eggs incubated at a temperature of 28 degrees or less will produce solely males; an incubation temperatures of 29-30 degrees will produce a mixed sex clutch.
A. Thilagarajan, Forest Ranger, Mandapam said the hatching of turtles, an endangered animal listed in the Wildlife Protection Act, in “captive conditions” had given him and the team satisfaction. It was the first experience for many forest officials.
Mr. Sundarakumar said that the hatching was expected to continue for a few more days. Early morning was found to be ideal for hatching.