Baby Olive Ridley turtles pop up along Gahirmata beach



Baby Olive Ridley turtles pop up along Gahirmata beach Kendrapara: Surfacing of millions of baby Olive Ridley marine turtles along the serene Gahirmatha beach along Odisha coast has cheered conservationists across the globe.

Wildlife lovers are elated as hatchlings broke out of eggshells and crawled towards their seaward journey in the tranquil nesting grounds at Island.

Around 4.26 lakh turtles had arrived at the Nasi-1 nesting ground to lay eggs on the sandy beach in Kendrapara district during March.

For last three days, newborn babies are emerging with mother turtles nowhere in sight. The whole of Nasi-1 Island is teeming with baby turtles and officials of Bhitarkanika National Park were sole witness to the unique natural heritage involving birth of babies sans mother, said forest officials.

Tourists and researchers are denied entry to the area as the unmanned islands are located in close vicinity of Wheeler's Island defence test range centre, a prohibited territory.

"The emergence of hatchlings from egg shells is expected to continue for at least a week. The one-km beach is virtually littered with hatchlings. The babies were literally jostling for space to loiter around before their final plunge into seawater," said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division.

The babies broke out of eggshells and wandered around the sandy beach for nearly an hour before making their way to swirling seawater, says a wildlife staff.

"About two million hatchlings have emerged out of pits.

The process of turtle birth is expected to continue for few more days," DFO Mahapatra said.

An estimated 4.26 lakh turtles had arrived en masse to lay eggs, a phenomenon called Arribada in Spanish, in 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, an official said.

The mortality rate of hatchlings is exceedingly high as one out of a thousand survives the life cycle to grow into an adult, according to the official.

PTI