Mating Olive Ridleys head to Gahirmatha sanctuary

Kendrapara (Odisha), Nov 11 (PTI) Pairs of mating olive ridley sea turtles have begun emerging on seawaters off Gahirmatha marine sanctuary coast in Odisha, marking the commencement of breeding and nesting season of these endangered aquatic animals.

Forest personnel on patrolling drives have sighted pairs of mating turtles. The sighting of breeding turtles marks the commencement of mass nesting season of these delicate marine species, forest officials said today.

Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district is acclaimed as world?s largest-known nesting ground of these animals.

Besides Gahirmatha, these aquatic animals turn up at Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth for mass nesting.

“On serene surface of sea waters, the turtle surveying teams spotted hundreds of mating pairs along the Gahirmatha coast. Fishing prohibition is presently clamped in Gahirmatha zone to ensure disturbance-free mating of the marine animals.

After the end of the mating season, most of the male turtles usually return leaving behind the female turtles to lay their eggs,” said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Officer, Kedar Kumar Swain.

The female turtles 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 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 Swain.

The ban on sea fishing has been clamped in accordance with Sections 2, 7 and 4 of Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982 and provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. ?To ensure the safety of turtles, the prohibitory orders are being strictly enforced. The trawl operators have been cautioned not to venture into prohibited water zone. Any act of trespass would invite punitive measures?, the DFO said.

Rise in mortality rate of mating turtles along the coastal water surface led to the clamping of prohibition as the gill nets used by the trawls prove to be messenger of death for breeding turtles. The mute species, accorded as schedule-1 animal under Wildlife Protection Act for its highly threatened status, get entangled in the nets for prolonged period and die of asphyxiation. The turtles also perish in large number after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the fishing trawlers, forest personnel told.

The rate of mortality of these endangered species is quite high. An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 60 days. But not all eggs remain intact as predators devour it. Besides, eggs are also washed away by sea waves during high tide. The eggs are incubated in the nest and grow, sans mother, to emerge as hatchlings.