By Kshirabdhi Tanaya
The Forest personnel have recently sighted about 80 mating pairs of Olive Ridely turtles in the Bay of Bengal near Ekakula and Babubali under the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, said Rajnagar Mangrove and Wildlife Division DFO Manoj Kumar Mohapatra on Sunday.
The surveillance has been tightened in the prohibited zone of the sanctuary to ensure smooth breeding and nesting of the turtles. The department has set up 14 onshore and two offshore camps under the sanctuary to restrict the illegal entry of trawlers.
According to Mohapatra, the mating of the Olive Ridley turtles is expected to continue till January first week. Later, the marine turtle would come for mass nesting at the world’s largest rookery, he informed.
Generally, the female turtles tend to move towards the beaches in large synchronised concentrations. They lay their eggs at midnight in 45 centimeters pits, which they dig with their rear flippers. After laying the eggs in the pits, the female turtles cover the nests with sand and return to the sea in a zigzag manner to confuse predators about the location of the nests. A female turtle lays 100-120 eggs in a go. Hatchlings emerge from these eggs after 45-60 days and find their way to the sea creating a cacophony.
During the breeding season, males and females migrate from their feeding ground to the breeding ground, while mating occurs in the offshore waters, added DFO Mohapatra.
The endangered species mortality rate is so high that one egg out of every 1,000 eggs laid, ultimately hatches and the hatchlings survives to become an adult Olive Ridley, said Mohapatra . Notably, the State Forest Department has imposed a ban on all types of fishing around 20 km off the shore from November 1 to May 31 to protect the endangered marine turtles. The endangered sea turtle is a highly threatened species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and has been accorded highest protection like the endangered tigers.