Kendrapara: Emergence of millions of baby Olive Ridley marine turtles along the tranquil Gahirmatha beach along Odisha coast has provided soothing relief to conservationists.
Wildlife lovers are elated as hatchlings broke out of eggshells and crawled towards their seaward journey in the nesting grounds at Nasi-2 Island.
About 1.68 lakh turtles had arrived at Nasi-2 nesting ground from March 20 - March 28 to lay eggs on the sandy beach.
"Since Saturday night, newborn babies are emerging with mother turtles nowhere in sight. Nasi-2 Island is teeming with baby turtles and wildlife officials of Bhitarkanika National Park stationed at these nesting grounds are the sole witness to this unique natural heritage involving the birth of babies sans mother", forest officials said.
Tourists and researchers were denied entry to witness it keeping in view the fact that the unmanned islands is located in close vicinity of Wheeler`s island defence test range centre, a prohibited territory.
Emergence of hatchlings from egg shells is expected to continue at least for a week. The one km beach is virtually littered with newly born hatchlings. The babies are literally jostling for space to move around before their plunge into seawater, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, said.
The babies broke out of the shackles of eggshells and wandered aimlessly around the sandy beach for nearly an hour before making their way to seawater, he said.
"Nearly two million hatchlings have emerged out of pits since past 24 hours. The process of turtle birth is expected to continue for few more days," the DFO said.
An estimated 1.68 lakh turtles had arrived en masse to
lay eggs, a phenomenon otherwise called arribada in Spanish, earlier in the second week of March.
There was considerable delay in the arrival of turtles this year which had led many to speculate that these marine animals may play truant in turning up here for mass nesting.
After the eggs are incubated under natural process, the hatchlings come out after 45/55 days` hiatus. The phenomenon of babies` emergence from the nests is a unique proposition in itself as "babies grow sans mother."
The nesting beaches at the idyllic islands free from human interference also happen to be the most congenial and conducive spots for turtles` mass nesting.
But of late these beaches are undergoing sea erosion, adversely affecting the ideal turtle habitat, according to official sources.
The mortality rate of hatchlings is exceedingly high as one out of a thousand survives the life cycle to grow into an adult.