Mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles begins at Odisha’s Gahirmatha marine sanctuary

Bhubaneswar: Olive Ridley sea turtles have started their annual mass nesting at Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, informed PCCF (Wildlife) Susanta Nanda today.

It is expected that lakhs of them will be thronging the beach to lay eggs in the next couple of days.

Taking to his personal ‘X’ handle, the senior Forest official wrote, “The splendid phenomenon of mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles at Gahirmatha has begun. Lakhs of them will be visiting our beach to lay eggs in next couple of days. Department is fully geared up to ensure safety of our annual visitors.”

Worth mentioning, Olive Ridley sea turtles face a variety of threats that endanger their population, especially, in Odisha coast. We need to save our ecosystem by protecting them.

The primary threats can be summed up as:

Illegal Poaching: Olive Ridley sea turtles are often poached for their eggs, meat, and skin. Despite legal protections, poaching continues to be a major threat, driven by demand in local markets and, to some extent, international trade.

Habitat Destruction: Coastal development, including urbanisation, industrialisation, and tourism infrastructure, often lead to destruction and degradation of nesting beaches and feeding grounds. This loss of habitat reduces the available nesting sites and disrupts the turtles’ life cycle.

Fishing Gear: Olive Ridley turtles get frequently caught as bycatch in various types of fishing gear, including gillnets, trawlers, and longlines. The sea turtles are entangled in nets and drown, or sustain injuries leading to death.

Pollution: Pollution, including plastic pollution, chemical runoff, and oil spills, poses a significant threat to Olive Ridley turtles. Ingestion of plastic debris causes internal injuries or blockages, while chemical pollutants affect their health and reproductive success. Oil spills coat turtles’ bodies, impairing their ability to regulate body temperature and resilience.

Climate Change: Rising sea levels, changing ocean temperatures, and altered weather patterns associated with climate change impact the nesting success of Olive Ridley turtles. For example, higher temperatures skew hatchling sex ratios, while increased storm intensity destroys nests and disrupts nesting behavior.

Predation: Eggs, hatchlings, and adult Olive Ridley turtles face predation from various natural predators, including birds, crabs, mammals, and human beings. Predation significantly reduces their reproductive success and contributes to population decline.

Light Pollution: Artificial lighting along beaches disorients hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean towards human settlement, or other hazards. Such disorientation increases the sea turtles’ vulnerability to predation, exhaustion, and dehydration.

Efforts to mitigate these threats include implementing conservation measures such as protected areas, nesting beach patrols, community engagement programmes, and regulations on fishing practices.

However, continued monitoring and conservation efforts are essential to ensure the survival of Olive Ridley turtles in the Odisha coast and beyond.

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