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Undisturbed mass nesting of Olive Ridleys at Rushikulya

Safe landing:Olive Ridleys began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery on March 21.Special arrangementSpecial arrangement

Safe landing:Olive Ridleys began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery on March 21.Special arrangementSpecial arrangement  

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

Restrictions in place for the COVID-19 threat are saving lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles from possible disturbance 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 turtles 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 turtles 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 crowd. But this year, the COVID-19 lockdown has ensured no such disturbance occurs for the turtles.

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 at Rushikulya this year, said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer Amlan Nayak. Two trawlers, two speed boats and a country boat are being used by the 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

Cyclone Titli in October 2018, 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 waste remained, keeping Olive Ridleys away in 2019.

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

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