Olive Ridley turtles: Will they, won’t they ?

OST Nature Bureau
Rajnagar (Kendrapara):

Oilive Ridley sea turtles continue to play truant, skipping their annual mass nesting at Gahirmatha rookery much to the worry of the wildlife personnel and enthusiasts.

With attention trained on the nitty-gritty of poll battles for the forthcoming general election, the unique mass nesting of turtles at the tranquil beach has seemingly escaped the attention of one and all.

Olive Ridley turtles heading for Nasi-II ( File pic)
Olive Ridley turtles heading for Nasi-II ( File pic)

There are no signs of ‘arribada’ – a Spanish term that describes the unique natural heritage of millions of these marine species converging on the nesting ground – in this part of the state for laying eggs.

Each year Olive Ridley turtles turn up in lakhs between January and March to lay eggs along the fragile Gahirmatha beach, known as the world’s largest-known rookery of these species .

With the mass nesting at Gahirmatha getting delayed, the apprehension that the marine animals may skip their annual sojourn at the tranquil beach this year, appears real. However, the wildlife officials have refused to lose hope while keeping their fingers crossed.

“The environment is conducive for the occurrence of mass nesting and we hope the turtles will turn up’”, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Kedar Kumar Swain.

There are instances in the past when the Ridleys have appeared for mass nesting in late April. So they may turn up and besides, there is still a large congregation of turtles close to the coast, he said.
Olive Ridley Turtles: Mass Nesting
Delay in the emergence of turtles along the Gahirmatha might be due to a multiplicity of factors.

Wildlife experts say, the rapid fragmentation and erosion of their favourite beaches at Gahirmatha may have dissuaded the endangered species from appearing at the beach. Trawl-fishing and human interference may also have affected their privacy, they say.

Most experts agree that the extended weather, sea erosion that has paved the way for rapid topographical changes in the 12km long Gahirmatha beach may have been a distracting factor for the turtles. They say fragmented beaches, with its area reduced considerably over the years, might have made this location less congenial for en-masse emergence of turtles for arribada. This apart, the landing space in the nesting grounds, which has turned steep and sharp, may have made the act of climbing up to the nesting ground difficult for the turtles, say experts.

There is a whole lot of mystery around the behaviour and migration pattern of these marine species. Research is yet to throw much light on these aspects. While it is well-known that they continue to prefer the Odisha coast for mass mating and nesting, little is known about their destination once they leave the Odisha coast after laying eggs.

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