In Photos: Record Number of Olive Ridley Turtles Hatch in Odisha
This year, over 6 lakh turtles arrived at the beach, highest since 2001, and a record 3.55 lakh eggs were laid.
A large number of baby turtles have started emerging from the pits on Saturday at the Rushiukulya beach in Ganjam district and Gahiramatha beach of Kendrapada district in Odisha. Gahiramatha is known as the world’s largest rookery of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
After emerging from the nests , the turtle hatchlings have started their journey towards the sea. The birth of the turtle hatchlings from the pits is likely to continue for another five to seven days , said Sidhant Das, the Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), of the forest department.
Odisha is the mating and nesting ground of 50 percent of the world's Olive Ridley turtles, the smallest and the most abundant sea turtles, but increasing deaths – largely due to illegal trawling – threaten their existence and are causing increasing concern among wildlife lovers.
This year, the number of nests was the highest in 16 years as 6,04,046 turtles arrived at the beach and a record 3.55 lakh eggs were laid in February. The record was registered in 2001, when 7,41,000 turtles arrived while the second best was 7,11,000 turtles in 2000.
Each year, adult females crawl from the surf of the Bay of Bengal onto Gahiramatha to dig nests for their ping-pong ball sized eggs.
To save the millions of turtle hatchlings who will be heading towards land instead of the ocean after emerging from the pits, the forest department has cordoned off the nesting beaches with fences.
After 40 to 45 days of the laying of eggs by female turtles, two-inch baby turtles hatch and they emerge in a group from their nests in the cool of the night and scurry down the beach to sea water. Once at sea, a new life begins.
Mortality rate of the baby turtles in the sea is high and out of one thousand, only one survives to become an adult, added the forest officer.
The arrival of more than half a million of turtles on Gahiramatha this year reflects decades of conservation work since sea turtles were put on the endangered species list and declared as a Schedule-1 animal at par with the tiger and the elephant in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
(With inputs from Odisha-based reporter Ashis Senapati and IANS.)
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