Berhampur, India — Olive Ridley sea turtles started mass nesting from the river Rushikulya mouth in Odisha's Ganjam district today, about a fortnight ahead of their expected annual phenomenon.
Over 6000 female Olive Ridley, listed under Schedule 1 of the endangered species list climbed ashore and laid eggs by digging the sandy beach.
The marine creatures selected the 3.5-km long stretch from Purunabandh to Podampeta this time as a suitable place to lay eggs, forest officials said.
Wildlife experts were earlier apprehensive about the mass nesting as the four-km long site of the rookery was submerged due to the diversion of the river Rushikulya.
The experts were excited as the turtles started to lay eggs enmasse at the new site near the traditional rookery. The mass nesting of Olive Ridleys was followed by sporadic nesting in the rookery, considered as the second largest after Gahiramatha.
"The mass nesting stared around a fortnight ahead of last year. We expect the phenomenon will continue for next some days," Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Berhampur S S Mishra said.
Unable to guess the reason behind early mass nesting of the Olive Ridley this year, he said, "We can't say. It's nature's wish."
Mass nesting of the Olive Ridley had started on February 29 last year, continued for about three days and around 1.07 lakh turtles had laid the eggs in the Rushikulya mouth rookery, sources said.
Forest officials made elaborate arrangements for smooth and safe nesting on the beach. The entire area was divided into 32 sectors.
Forest personnel and volunteers have been deployed in each sector for counting the eggs. Mass nesting was reported in 13 sectors, a senior officer said.
They also provided protection to the eggs in absence of mother turtles, the DFO said.
After laying eggs, the female turtles go back to the deep sea without waiting to see the hatchlings, which generally emerge around 45 days of nesting.
"The local people in the area are cooperating with the forest personnel to protect the eggs," said Rabindra Nath Sahu, secretary of the Rushikulya Sea Turtles Protection Committee.
Around 100 school children had cleaned the beach last week to facilitate the mass nesting.
Besides, the river Rushikulya mouth and Gahiramatha, Devi river mouth on the Odisha coast is also another famous mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles.