Olive Ridley turtles arrive for annual nesting at Rushikulya Orissa

Posted on
19 March 2010
New Delhi: WWF-India(World Wide Fund For Nature-India) team along with Government of India Forest department ,Orissa have played a critical role in the mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles which had commenced on 14th March at Rushikulaya in Orissa. Annually, this happens in mid February before mass nesting further north at Gahirmatha. This year the turtles lived up to their reputation of being unpredictable. The congregation at Rushikulaya was very close to the beach by the third week of February, but receded suddenly. The mass nesting occurred thereafter at Gahirmatha. Approximately one lakh and eighty six thousand (according to Forest Department figures) female turtles nested at Gahirmatha.

In the first week of March the congregation slowly started returning to Rushikulaya and started to build up offshore, just north of the usual Purunabandh and Gokhurkuda beach. Drizzles in the first week of March dampened the spirits of turtle enthusiasts which was compounded with low intensity of the Southerly winds and the beginning of beach erosion. (Beach erosion creates a tiny cliff along the line of erosion, making it impossible for turtles to climb on to the beach).

Finally on 14th March female turtles started coming ashore in thousands to nest at Rushikulaya. As expected they nested in the stretch between Gokhurkuda and Kontiagarh (just north of Gokhurkuda). Since then they have shifted one kilometer further north. On the first two days the nesting was dense in a stretch of 500 to 600 meters. However by 16th the nesting was spread over a stretch of one and a half kilometers, moving a little south.

WWF-India, as in the past six years, has started its program of providing protection to the rookery. From the first day onwards, volunteers had started patrolling the beach, 24 hrs surveillance to keep off feral dogs, jackals, jungle cats and hyenas who constantly try to depredate the nests. This was simultaneously followed up with beginning of erection of Tuflex net fence along the upper edge of the rookery to ensure zero predation of nests. Patrolling continued to ensure safety of nets installed and deter consistent efforts at predation by damage to the nets,

WWF-India has also set up a turtle interpretation center at the cyclone shelter of the village. Signages on life cycle of turtles and threats/mitigation measures to create awareness among all visitors on turtle conservation have also been set up. The patrolling of the beach will continue till completion of hatching. Data will also be recorded on the beach profile and climatic conditions from nesting till hatching, which will be studied over coming years to relate behavior of turtles in relation to changes in the factors.

About Olive Ridleys

IUCN Status: Critically endangered

Named after H.N. Ridley FRS who first reported the sighting of Olive Ridleys in Brazil in 1887 and their overall olive green colour, Olive Ridleys are the smallest of the marine turtle species in the world. They grow to an average of 70 cms long and adults weigh approximately 45 kgs. The carapace is tear drop shaped.
They are omnivorous, feeding on crustaceans and molluscs. They can dive to great depths and may be bottom feeders. They are highly migratory, covering thousands of kilometers between foraging and nesting grounds.

The most fascinating feature of Olive Ridley is their mass nesting called ‘arribada’ meaning mass arrival in Spanish. They choose narrow beaches near estuaries and bays to lay eggs. Each adult female lays approximately 100-140 eggs at a time. It is believed that they nest in an interval of one-four years. The nesting season is between November to March.

In India, arribada takes place in the east coast state of Orissa at three nesting grounds Gahirimatha, Devi river mouth and Rushikulya river mouth. The later being the site of mass nesting for the season 2002-03. Gahirmatha which was the site of mass nesting for many years hardly had the visitors from the sea.
WWF-India launched a campaign in the Rushikulya nesting beach in April 2003 for the protection of the nests and the hatchlings.

For further information please contact-
Mr Michael Peters,
State Director,Orissa

Ms.Shaila Sam
Senior manger- communications, WWF-India,
Ph- Ph-;011-41504797
Email Email-ssam@wwfindia.net


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