Protection units set up for safety of Olive Ridley turtles

Berhampur: In a bid to protect Olive Ridley sea turtles, the Forest Department has set up nine protection units near Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district.

The Rushikulya river mouth, 45km from the silk city of Berhampur, is one of the biggest rookeries in the state for the endangered sea creature.

“Countless pairs of Olive Ridley turtles mating on the surface of the water is a sight to behold,” said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer Ashish Kumar Behera.

The Rushikulya river mouth is already brimming with turtles, he said.

After nesting, the female turtles swim ashore to lay eggs by digging pits in the sand. The hatchlings emerge 45 to 50 days after nesting. The female turtles, however, do not wait to see their eggs hatch and return to the sea.

“The turtles are expected to turn up in large numbers as the beach from Gokharakuda to Purunabandh has widened naturally,” Behera said.

The mass nesting is likely to take place in the third week of February. A record number of over 3.70 lakh sea turtles had laid eggs near the Rushikulya river mouth between February 14 and 22, this year.

Apart from the 4km stretch from Purunabandh to Gokharakuda, thousands of turtles had laid eggs on another 2km stretch between Podampeta and New Podampeta area.

Olive Ridleys also visit Gahiramatha in Kendrapara and Devi river mouth near Astaranga every year for mass nesting.