Mass nesting of endangered Olive Ridley turtles started at the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district from Tuesday night. It was the first mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles on Odisha coast. Mass nesting of the marine turtles has not yet started at Gahiramatha and Devi river mouth coast, which are the other two mass nesting points in the State. In 2012 mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles stared at this coast from February 28.
According to the forest officials, some 6,030 mother Olive Ridley turtles reached the coast line near Rushikulya rookery to lay their eggs on the first night of mass nesting this year. Around 4.5 km of beach from Gokharkuda to Podampeta is usually preferred by turtles for nesting.
But this year, the Olive ridleys preferred to nest in large numbers on a 3.2-km long sand bar between Purunabandha and Gokharkuda. This sand bar is completely detached from the main coast.
The forest officials, with the help of researchers and volunteers from the fishermen villages near the rookery, have initiated measures for enumeration of mass nesting and protection of nests on the sandy beach.
According to Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) S.S. Mishra, total beach, which is preferred for mass nesting by Olive ridleys, has been divided into 32 segments which are under close watch of a team of forest officials, researchers, and volunteers. Forest officials from all over Berhampur forest division have been deputed to monitor the mass nesting process. Each five segments have one forest official as supervisor. A control room has also been established for the mass nesting process.
Mother Olive ridleys dig up sand with their flappers to lay their eggs. Later, they cover it up with sand and return to sea. To protect the eggs from predators fencing will be made on the entire stretch of coast where mass nesting occurs, according to the DFO. These eggs incubate by the heat of the sand and hatch after 45 days.
Last year, around one lakh Olive ridleys nested at Rushikulya rookery coast. In 2011, around 2,51,000 mother turtles nested at this coast. It is interesting to note that in 2007 there was no mass nesting on the Rushikulya rookery coast, while in 2006 there was mass nesting twice on the beach. The reason behind these quantitative changes in mass nesting has not yet been confirmed by experts.