By Hrusikesh Mohanty
BERHAMPUR, India — Over 3 lakh Olive Ridley turtles have laid eggs near the Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam, about 60 km from here, since mass nesting started on February 13. "Around 2.6 lakh turtles had laid eggs in the Rushikulya rookery in 2008-09 while 1.07 lakh turtles nested on the beach last year," said divisional forest officer of Berhampur S S Mishra.
Though rain lashed the area on Sunday evening, over 8,700 Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs in the wee hours of Monday, he said. Around 2.5 lakh turtles nested in the 3.5-km-long sandbar between Kantiagada and Podampeta and 50,000 turtles nested near Purunabandh, he said.
Cleaning of the beach and conducive atmosphere contributed to the record number of Olive Ridleys nesting on the beach, experts said. This year, they arrived a fortnight before schedule, forest officials sources. The forest officials had divided the beach into 32 sectors. Forest personnel and volunteers have been deployed in each sector to count the eggs and protected the eggs in the absence of the mother turtles, the DFO said. The female turtles return to the sea after laying the eggs with the hatchlings emerging after 45 days.
"Locals have cooperated with forest personnel to protect the eggs," said secretary of the Rushikulya Sea Turtles Protection Committee Rabindra Nath Sahu. Besides the Rushikulya river mouth, the turtles also nest at Gahiramatha and Devi river mouth. Nesting is yet to start at these two places.