Bhubaneswar, Nov 26 (LocalWire): Gahirmatha, off Odisha coast, is known as the world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles.
Millions of these marine species invade the idyllic nesting grounds at Gahirmatha beach every year to lay eggs, a unique natural heritage otherwise called ‘arribada’.
The mating season starts in November and few hundred thousands of Olive Ridleys have already come in near the shore of Gahirmatha.
LocalWire brings to you 10 facts about these delicate marine species and the Gahirmatha nesting ground.
1. Olive Ridley turtles have been accorded the highest legal protection under Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 like tigers.
These marine species are classified ‘endangered’ under International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book.
2. Apart from Gahirmatha beach, the Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth play host to turtles and are nesting sites of these marine animals.
3. Gahirmatha was accorded the marine wildlife sanctuary tag on 27 September 1997 to ensure the safety of these turtles.
It is the sole marine wildlife sanctuary of the state.
4. While pairs of turtles are sighted mating along the deep seawaters during November-December, female turtles converge in millions at the nesting ground to lay eggs during February-March every year.
The mass nesting also gets delayed to April at times.
5. The turtles, for reasons still unexplored, played truant and skipped the annual mass nesting in 2008.
6. The exact reason that attracts the Olive Ridleys to Gahirmatha and other beaches of Odisha for mass nesting is still a mystery.
7. An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 50 days.
But not all eggs remain intact as predators devour it.
8. In the summer months of May-June, millions of baby turtles break out of the eggshells and crawl towards the seawaters.
The birth of babies sans their mothers marks the grand culmination of annual sojourn of Olive Ridley turtles along the Odisha coast.
9. The earlier belief was that turtles cover thousands of nautical miles to enter the Odisha coast from the Pacific Ocean.
However, studies conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in 2007 traced the turtles’ migration path from Bay of Bengal to the Sri Lankan coast.
WII had conducted the dual experiment of tagging and fitting transmitters to study the marine animals’ itinerant behavior.
10.The female turtles tagged at Gahirmatha were found returning back to Gahirmatha to lay eggs the next year.
The institute also fitted satellite transmitters on the turtles for scientific monitoring of the migration route.
The transmitters-fitted turtles had been found to have migrated south towards Sri Lanka.