Kendrapara (Odisha): Sea erosion, a truncated beach profile and formation of a sand bar close to the nesting ground of Olive Ridley sea turtles off Gahirmatha coast in Kendrapara district are posing to be stumbling blocks for the marine animals to crawl to their favoured nesting grounds.
Sea erosion is taking its toll on the profile and topography of the idyllic Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 Isles, the rookery of the turtles off the Gahirmatha coast, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, B P Acharya said.
Both the islands stretched up to 8 km a decade back, but its length has now been reduced to 3 km and the sea is unsteady near the nesting grounds, he said.
The Gahirmatha marine sanctuary missed the spectacular phenomenon of millions of turtles laying siege of the beach for mass nesting last year.
However, 4.13 lakh turtles reappeared this year to lay eggs and the nesting grounds would have hosted more turtles for 'arribada' (laying eggs) had its shape not been battered by sea waves, Acharya said.
There was low intensity nesting in Nasi-1 Island mainly due to an unsuitable angle of repose for the turtles to crawl and climb up the beach, he said.
The beaches at the nesting grounds have become stiff prompting the turtles to skip the spot. The angle of repose is almost 90 degree, which made it practically impossible for turtles to climb up to the nesting ground to lay eggs, the DFO said.
"I witnessed the turtles crawling unto the beach to dig pits and lay eggs. A number of female turtles, however, failed to climb up the steep beach. They vanished in seawaters skipping nesting", the official said.
However, 600 metre stretch of the beach at Nasi-2 island was free from erosion and fragmentation, he said.
Despite sea erosion, about two kilo metre stretch of rookery has the prefect ambience for mass nesting for which nearly 4 lakh turtles turned up for mass nesting this year, the DFO said.
Though truncated in mid portion, the beach attracted the turtles for laying eggs, he said.
The formation of sand bar in the sea close to the Nasi-2 nesting ground might also be acting as a deterrent for the delicate marine animals. It was posing a stumbling block to the turtles to march towards the nesting beach.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Intermediary Test Range centre authorities in Wheeler Island had switched off the light on sea front to avoid distraction and disorientation of the turtles.
Average clutch size of the nests dug out by turtles had the capacity to carry 60 to 80 eggs. However, it was found that multi layer nesting may have damaged eggs laid on initial days of mass nesting, Acharya said.
As the turtles were seemingly in a hurry to lay eggs as per their natural instinctive urge, one nest spilled over to the other thereby causing damage to the laid eggs, the DFO said.