Kendrapara: Olive Ridley turtles have finally arrived at Gahirmatha beach in Odisha to lay eggs much to the delight of wildlife lovers and forest officials.
An estimated 46,000 female turtles were spotted digging pits on the sandy nesting ground for laying eggs, forest department officials said.
The number of visiting turtles is on a lower scale given the fact that over 5 lakh turtles had converged at the nesting ground here last year. Gahirmatha beach off the Bay of Bengal coast is acclaimed as World`s largest-known nesting ground of the turtles.
Forest officials are, however, hopeful that the number of visiting turtles would go up in the coming days with the climatic condition conducive and beach topography ideal.
About 500 turtles were sighted on Saturday. Over 24,000 turtles dug pits to lay eggs last night. The figure stood at 16,000 on the preceding day.
Last year 5.1 lakh turtles laid eggs at the Gahirmatha beach, the sources said.
The mass nesting is expected to continue for more than a week. As the territory where turtles have congregated to lay eggs is very close to the prohibited defence project, there
are none to witness this unique natural phenomenon.
Under DRDO directions, visitors and outsiders are stopped from making their way to the place. Only forest personnel on turtle protection duty have access to the nesting
ground, said forest officials.
About 50 forest personnel have been deployed on the beach to keep vigil and to ensure the safe and undisturbed mass nesting of the turtles.
An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 50 days. But not all eggs remain intact as predators devour it.
Besides, eggs are also washed away by sea waves during high tide, the source said.