Undisturbed mass nesting of Olive Ridleys at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery

Turtles are safe as tourists and locals stay away from the coast due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

March 25, 2020 09:43 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:53 am IST - Berhampur

Olive Ridleys began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery from around 2 a.m. on March 21.

Olive Ridleys began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery from around 2 a.m. on March 21.

Restrictions in place for the COVID-19 threat is saving lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles from possible intrusion by humans, especially tourists, while they are continuing mass nesting at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery.

According to the Forest Department’s enumeration, over 2,78,502 mother turtles have nested at this coast till Wednesday morning. Since Tuesday evening, over 72,142 Olive Ridleys have arrived at the beach to dig nests and lay eggs.


Day-time nesting

Olive Ridleys began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery from around 2 a.m. on March 21. Later in the day, the unusual phenomenon of day-time mass nesting took place at the coast. As a large number of mother Olive Ridleys are still in the sea near this coast, mass nesting is expected to continue for some more nights.

This event normally attracts hundreds of people to the spot, with Forest Department personnel spending considerable time and effort in controlling the crowds of tourists as well as locals. But this year, the COVID-19 lockdown has ensured no such disturbance occurs for the turtles.

No trawlers

Proper maintenance of cleanliness and provision of protection to the turtles at sea since November 2019, when the turtles mate, are major reasons for the large scale mass nesting of Oliev Ridleys at Rushikulya this year, said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Amlan Nayak. Two trawlers, two speed boats and a country boat are being used by Forest Department to patrol the sea, in order to prevent fishing trawlers from plying along the coast. Trawlers did not cause any deaths of turtles as a result.


In 2019, mass nesting of Olive Ridleys did not occur in Rushikulya, in contrast to 2018, when “double mass nesting” occurred in February and April, with nesting figures rising above 4,73,000.

Cyclone’s aftermath

October 2018’s Cyclone Titli, and the floods that followed, left huge piles of waste over about 8 km of the Rushikulya coast, which had to be cleaned with excavators. It has been estimated that minute particles of the waste had remained, keeping the nesting Olive Ridleys away in 2019.

This year, the beach has received thorough cleaning at regular cleaning long before mass nesting commenced. The Forest Department also set up 11 off-shore camps early this year to monitor the beach.

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