Kendrapara:Feb 28(LocalWire) Much to the delight of turtle lovers, the long wait for a glimpse of the spectacular Olive Ridley turtles has finally ended. As hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridleys have started to arrive on the tranquil beach of the Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha’s Kendrapara district for mass nesting.
The first sightings of this season at Gahiramatha, world’s largest nesting site for Olive Ridley, were reported on Wednesday evening.
A park official said nearly 80,000 sea turtles may have came ashore for mass-nesting at Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands of the sanctuary on Wednesday for “arribada”, a Spanish term for the mass-nesting.
Last year, a record number of 6,64,549 Olive Ridley turtles had laid eggs between March 8 and 12 on the islands, breaking a 16 -year nesting record, said Gahiramatha forest range officer Arabinda Mishra.
The turtles came ashore in groups, each comprising nearly 5,000 to 10,000 individuals.
Nasi 1 and 2 islands, which extends up to six km in length, are ideal for nesting due to the absence of predators. The mass nesting would continue for a week, Mishra added.
A wildlife expert said many Ridleys are laying eggs on the same pits dug by other turtles, and in the process their eggs are being destroyed by their competitors.
“The beach is littered with thousands of nesting turtles. There’s little space, and as a result, many turtles have returned to sea and would come back only after a few days to lay eggs, said Hemant Rout, secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society.
Turtle eggs normally take 45 days to hatch. The tiny hatchlings than make their way to the sea.
“From wildlife enthusiasts, turtle lovers to forest officials, all are delighted to witness this massive arribada on Gahiramatha beach,” Rout said.
Around 50 forest guards have been deployed to protect the nesting site. The government has also clamped a fishing ban inside the sanctuary from November 1 to May 31.
“We have already arrested some 730 fishermen and seized some 90 boats and trawlers in Gahiramatha for breaking the rule,” said Mishra.
The Indian Coast Guard and the forest department have also set up 15 camps to prevent entry of fishing vessels for protection of turtles.
Gahirmatha was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997.