Despite erosion Gahirmatha still a favorite nesting ground for Olive Ridley turtles

Kendrapara: Despite erosion of beach at Gahirmatha, convergence of lakhs of turtles at the nesting ground for mass nesting has come in as pleasant surprise for turtle lovers and wildlife experts.

Though marauding sea has eaten up sizable portion of the geographical boundary of Gahirmatha beach at unmanned Nasi-2 Island, World’s largest known rookery of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, the length of the beach has got elongated following natural accretion phenomenon.

Notwithstanding eroded physical profile of the nesting beach, it’s heartening to note that Gahirmatha beach continues to be favourite nesting address of the turtles. More than six lakh female turtles have so far turned up to lay eggs, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.

Length of the nesting ground was measured at 1,000 metres while this year it has stretched up to 1200 metre. However the breadth of the beach has got truncated. The nesting ground lacks uniform shape. Its form had got irregular and unbalanced with seawaters inundating into specific patches, said Divisional Forest Officer, Acharya said.

The truncated shape and size of the sandy nesting ground did not pose natural hurdles for mass-nesting of these species. The nesting ground had been fragmented to 12 segments with each segment measuring 100 metre long. The turtles had preferred the old nesting beach of 1000 metre long to dig pits and lay eggs. However the newly-formed accreted beach did not attract the delicate marine animals and they skipped the new beach for mass nesting, the official said.

In some patches, the edge of the beach facing sea has turned steep and sharp, hindering the turtles to scale the sandy barrier and turn up at the nesting ground to lay eggs. However the sea animals were sighted getting the better of the natural barriers to crawl unto the beach to indulge in instinctive mass nesting, said a Gahirmatha Forest Range Officer, Subrat Patra, who was witness to the unique natural heritage.

Strong southerly winds and atmospheric temperature ranging from 32 to 38 degree Celsius are conducive for turtles’ mass nesting. This year, everything was perfect leading to virtual invasion of turtles to the nesting ground, said the forest official.

Despite sea erosion, nesting ground continues to have ambience for mass nesting, claimed officials.

It’s only the female turtles that virtually invade the nesting beaches usually at the dead of the night 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.