Turtle trail to get a boost with mass tagging mission

1,556 Olive Ridleys tagged in exercise that began in Odisha in January 2021 after nearly 25 years.

December 23, 2021 12:30 pm | Updated December 24, 2021 12:00 am IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Wild Life experts tagging an Olive Ridley turtle at Rushikulya rookery along Odisha coast.

Wild Life experts tagging an Olive Ridley turtle at Rushikulya rookery along Odisha coast.

Scientists have resumed tagging of Olive Ridley sea turtles at Rushikulya rookery along Odisha coast, which would help them identify the migration path and places visited by the marine reptiles after congregation and nesting.

Researchers of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) are carrying out tagging of Olive Ridley turtles at three mass nesting sites – Gahirmatha, Devi River mouth and Rushikulya. The exercise was undertaken in Odisha in January 2021 after a span of about 25 years and 1,556 turtles had been tagged.

A pair of Olive Ridley turtle along Odisha coast in the Bay of Bengal.

A pair of Olive Ridley turtle along Odisha coast in the Bay of Bengal.


On Wednesday, the ZSI team tagged 22 turtles (11 male and 11 female) in association with Odisha Forest and Environment Department along the Rushikulya coast.

“We are studying the path taken by turtles in the sea, if they keep coming to one nesting site for laying eggs, and the number of sites they visit over the years. Besides, the growth of turtles could be measured during the current study,” said Anil Mohapatra, ZSI scientist, who leads the research team at Gopalpur, on Thursday.

Dr. Mohapatra elaborated, “the study would also reveal the inter-rookery movement of turtles in Odisha. The migration pattern to other countries would be recorded in detail.”

The metal tags affixed to turtles are non-corrosive and they do not harm their body. The metal can be removed later. The tags are uniquely numbered containing details such as name of organisation, country-code and email address. “If researchers in other countries come across the tagged turtles, they would email their location in longitude and latitude to us. It would help us know their location. There is an established network working on turtles,” said the scientist.

“We intend to tag 30,000 turtles over a period of 10 years. Last year, the turtles did not come for mass nesting to Rushikulya so we could not carry out much tagging. In Gahirmatha, 1,000 turtles were tagged last year. We can scale up tagging up to 10,000 in a year if proper mass nesting takes place,” he said.

Dr. Mohapatra said, “even if we complete tagging of turtles in three years, we have to do rigorous monitoring of the marine reptiles. Initially, a 10-year time frame has been set for long-term monitoring. If we get encouraging results, the time frame can be extended.”

Meanwhile, mass congregation of Olive Ridley sea turtles has been found to be very encouraging along Rushikulya coast. The mass nesting picked up after Cyclone Jawad crossed near the coast.

“The condition for mass nesting is very conducive this year. There are chances of Olive Ridley turtles going to nearby places, including an island created between Purunabandh and Podumpeta for mass nesting. We have started awareness among locals to provide them disturbance-free ambience,” said Amlan Nayak, Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer.

Sea patrolling had been intensified and beach cleaning and security had also been taken up, said Mr. Nayak.

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