Despite the erosion of the Gahirmatha beach in Odisha's Kendrapara district, wildlife officials are optimistic about the convergence of lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles for mass nesting within a fortnight.
The nesting beach at the Nasi-II Island has eroded and been fragmented over the past decade but a large number of female turtles are expected to arrive as usual. The mass nesting, or arribada, is likely to take place by the second week of March, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division, Bikash Chandra Dash said on Monday.
Every year, the sea has been eating into the Gahirmatha beach in the uninhabited Nasi-II Island, he said. "The 2.6-km-long nesting beach has been bifurcated due to inundation by seawater. Still, the shape of the beach is perfect for turtles to dig pits and lay eggs. The edge of the beach facing the sea is not steep and turtles find it easy to crawl up to the beach," he said.
Strong southerly winds and temperatures ranging between 32 and 38 degrees Celsius are conducive for mass nesting of turtles, he said, adding that a large congregation of turtles is waiting in the deep sea.
After laying eggs, the female turtles return to the sea. The hatchlings emerge after 45-60 days. It is a rare natural phenomenon, the official said.
Lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles arrive for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year. Gahirmatha is the world's largest nesting ground for the turtles. Apart from Gahirmatha, this threatened species also lays eggs at Rushikulya River mouth in Ganjam district and Devi River mouth in Puri district. A smaller number of turtles also nest further down the east coast of India in Tamil Nadu, and in the Andamans. The Olive Ridleys also nest long the coast of Costa Rica and Mexico.
Around 7.3 lakh Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs along the Odisha coast in 2019-20, of which 4.5 lakh were in Gahirmatha.