Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha is famous as one of the biggest mass nesting grounds of Olive Ridley turtles in the world. However, environmentalists, wildlife lovers and forest officials have expressed their concerns over the delay in the mass nesting process.

Usually, the annual arrival of Olive Ridley sea turtles occurs at Gahirmatha either in the last week of February or in the first week of March every year. However, the changing climate scenario has delayed the phenomena and pushed it to April first week this year. 

As many as 2,66, 684 Olive Ridleys have laid eggs at Nasi-2 and other parts of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary so far this year starting from April 2. However, the number is very much less in comparison to last year. 

As per the environmentalists, the changing climate scenario has delayed the phenomena this time.

“Nesting time of Olive Ridleys got delayed due to climate change. They didn’t turn up for mass nesting as the weather conditions were not conducive for them. There was apprehension that they may not turn up this year. However, they came late in large numbers and more than two lakh turtles have laid eggs so far,” said environmentalist Bhaskar Routray.

“Several species have been severely affected due to climate change. Those species are connected directly with nature. When the nature is gradually decaying, they are also changing their behaviour accordingly,” said Sea Turtle Protection Committee Secretary Hemant Rout.

Considering the wonderful phenomenon of mass arrival of Olive Ridley turtles, Union government declared Gahirmatha as a marine sanctuary in 1997. 

In a bid to facilitate the smooth movement of the sea turtles, fishing and ferrying of motorboats are banned at Gahirmatha for seven months starting from November 1. During this period, lakhs of Olive Ridleys cross thousands of miles through the Pacific Ocean from countries like Australia and Sri Lanka to reach Gahirmatha for mass nesting. After about 45-65 days, the eggs begin to hatch and lakhs of Olive Ridley turtle babies swamp into the sea which is a rare and wonderful site to watch.

“The process of laying eggs started on March 9 last year. As the weather was not conducive and the temperature was low, the arrival of Olive Ridley Turtles got delayed this year. With improvement in weather conditions, the marine species have congregated at Gahirmatha in large numbers and started the egg-laying process,” said Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Forest Division - Sudarshan Gopinath Yadav.