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More than 1.48 Crore Olive Ridley Turtles hatched at Gahirmatha in Odisha

More than 1.48 Crore Olive Ridley Turtles, considered endangered, hatched at Gahirmatha in Kendrapara district in Odisha on the eastern coast of India. Officials said that the birth of the sea turtles began on April 25 and the annual event is now almost over.

The Gahirmatha beach is regarded as the world’s largest nesting ground for Olive Ridley Turtles. Considering its ecological importance Gahirmatha was declared a Marine Wildlife Sanctuary (turtle sanctuary) in 1997 by the Odisha government. It is a very popular tourist attraction in the state.

“A total of 1.48 crore of baby turtles have broken out of eggshells to mingle in the Gahirmatha seawaters till Thursday, marking the grand culmination of the annual sojourn of Olive Ridley sea turtles to this unmanned Gahirmatha Island,” Bikash Ranjan Dash, the Divisional Forest Officer of Bhitarkanika Mangrove (Wildlife), told PTI.

This year, about 3.49 lakh female turtles came to lay eggs.  These unique mass nesting sites are called “arribadas”. This year due to the restrictions imposed because of the covid-19 pandemic, human intrusions were minimal in Gahirmatha and so was an ideal time for mass nesting.

The hatching of eggs began on April 25 and the annual event is almost reaching its end. The babies have emerged from 2.98 lakh nests dug by female turtles to lay eggs at the Nasi-ii Island, close to defence installation at the Wheelers’ Island. Mr. Dash said that a round-the-clock vigil is being maintained to ensure the safety of the newborns. After emerging from the nests, the baby turtles loiter on the beach for an hour or so before starting their journey towards the sea, he added.

To lay their eggs, the female turtles return to the very same beach from where they were hatched. During this phenomenal nesting process, hundreds of thousands of females emerge from the waters, over a period of five to seven days to lay eggs. With their hind flippers, they dig conical nests of about one and a half feet deep and lay their eggs. A single female lays about 100 to 120 eggs. It takes 45-50 days for the eggs to hatch.

The olive ridley sea turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world. They are found in warm and tropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Though these turtles are found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. They are included in the ‘IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.’ They grow to about 2 feet in length, and 50 kg in weight. Their heart-shaped carapace (outer shell) is olive green in colour and hence the name Olive Ridley Turtles.


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