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While travel eludes most humans in this pandemic, the mass exit of tiny hatchlings of Olive Ridley turtles for their pelagic home has started at the Gahirmatha beach in Odisha. The wee creatures scrambling for the waterline are a sight to behold. If only minutes ago they seemed incapable of any movement, the speed and the confidence with which they rush headlong into the waves, is something to be seen to be believed.
One of the wonders of nature, the female turtles are known to return year after year, to breed in Gahirmatha. The turtle takes its name from the green coloured carapace of the adult species.
Although Olive Ridley turtles are known to nest along tropical coastlines, including several places along the Indian coasts, Gahirmatha in Kendrapara district of Odisha, is the place where the world’s largest congregation of these turtles takes place. According to a 2009 report published by the Wildlife Institute of India, it was only in 1974 that the conservation community came to know of this mass nesting site.
It is said the female turtles arrive from the South Pacific Ocean to lay their eggs here. They dig holes in the sand to lay the eggs, cover them, and leave. Usually, they arrive between November and March, and the laying of eggs takes place at night. The eggs hatch in 45 to 65 days.
Gahirmatha was declared a turtle sanctuary in 1997.
According to sources, nearly four lakh female turtles arrived this year (around March), with each laying nearly 100 eggs.
Travelling 1000s of km, Olive Ridley comes to lay eggs in 2 rookeries of Odisha. In Gahiramatha, 4 lakhs of them, each laying more than 100 laid eggs.— Susanta Nanda IFS (@susantananda3) May 5, 2021
Here they go. More than 40M new lives to Bay of Bengal.Salutations to the frontline staff, for protecting these annual guests ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ pic.twitter.com/82Ap8zpTT1
The forest department deployed special guards to ensure the hatchlings were not poached by humans or preyed upon by vultures or small animals.
Rushikulya in south Odisha is also known as a nesting site. According to media reports, environmentalists are also urging the state government to declare the Chaumukh sea beach in Baliapal as an Olive Ridley breeding ground too.
Velas beach is enclosed by mountains on 3 sides. The sight of baby turtles making their laborious way to the sea is worth the visit. This event is celebrated every year with the annual turtle festival during March - April pic.twitter.com/NIa1iNzimO— Maharashtra Tourism (@maha_tourism) December 12, 2020
Nesting of Olive Ridley turtles can also be seen along the western coast of India. Local environmental groups in Velas and Anjarle, two coastal villages in Maharashtra, are known to hold turtle festivals when it is time for the hatchlings to leave to raise awareness about the need to conserve these turtles; the festivals are on hold now due to the pandemic.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley sea turtle, as ‘vulnerable’. Although these turtles are still found in abundance, their number is depleting significantly.
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