Kendrapara: The nesting ground at the idyllic Gahirmatha Island has re-established itself as the world’s largest known rookery of Olive Ridley turtles with 6.57 lakh female turtles virtually invading the serene beach since past five days to lay eggs.
A new mass nesting record is likely to be registered this time as en-masse laying of eggs by the marine animals is likely to continue to four to five days more. On March 10, as many as 2.23 lakh turtles turned at the beach to lay eggs, which is a new record of largest congregation of turtles in a single day, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.
The highest record of mass nesting was registered in 2001 with 7,41,000 turtles while the second best was 7,11,000 turtles in 2000. This year the spectacular natural phenomenon is still continuing and is expected to last for at least three to four days. Given the intensity of the mass nesting, a new record in terms of number of turtles’ arrival to Gahirmatha is likely to be created this year. Last year, 6.04 lakh turtles had turned for mass nesting, official said.
The idyllic nesting ground of Olive Ridley sea turtles at outer wheelers’ Island had got elongated following natural accretion process. Therefore the beach proved congenial for turtles for mass nesting. Strong southerly winds and atmospheric temperature ranging from 28 to 30 degree Celsius also emerged as congenial factors for turtles’ mass nesting. The beach condition and weather were perfectly ambient this year for the natural heritage, said the forest official.
It’s only the female turtles that crawled onto the nesting beach after the sunset for laying eggs, the phenomenon otherwise described as ‘arribada’. After indulgence in instinctive egg-laying, the turtles leave the nesting ground to stride into the deep sea water. Hatchlings emerge from these eggs after 45-60 days. It is a rare natural phenomenon where the babies grow without their mother, said officials.
“The presence of forest personnel on the nesting ground did not bother the turtles as they maintained distance from the animals. Emphasis was on to provide privacy to the marine animals during egg-laying process. On their seaward journey, they moved past the forest guards at hand-shaking distance. The tranquil beach is virtually littered with these nocturnal visitors”, said Forest Range Officer Subrat Patra, who witnessed mass nesting also popularly described arribada, a Spanish term for egg laying.
An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge. But not all eggs remain intact as predators devour it.