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Odisha seawater plays host to mating pairs of turtles

For undisturbed breeding of the aquatic animals, prohibition on sea fishing continues to remain in force in the marine sanctuary, said forest officials.

Statesman News Service | Bhubaneswar |

Pairs of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles have begun emerging on the swirling sea waters off Gahirmatha, a prelude to the annual natural heritage of mass nesting of these endangered marine species.

Forest personnel on patrolling drives have sighted pairs of mating turtles. For undisturbed breeding of the aquatic animals, prohibition on sea fishing continues to remain in force in the marine sanctuary, said forest officials.

Gahirmatha beach off Bay of Bengal coast is incidentally acclaimed as World’s largest-known nesting ground of these animals. Apart from Gahirmatha, these threatened aquatic animals turn up at Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth for mass nesting.

On the 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 back leaving behind the female turtles to lay their eggs, said Gahirmatha forest range officer, Manas Das.

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 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, added the forest officer.

Apart from Gahirmatha, these threatened aquatic animals also turn up at Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth for mass nesting. An estimated eight female turtles had turned to dig pits and lay millions of eggs on the nesting beaches in Odisha this year.

The ban on sea fishing remains in force round the year in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary as the seawater here is the most conducive habitat for these delicate marine species.

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 messengers 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 periods and die of asphyxiation.

The turtles also perish in large numbers after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the fishing trawlers, forest personnel said.

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.

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 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.