Climatic conditions seem to have delayed mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles at Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha.
This year mass nesting has not started yet although usually it starts at end of February or beginning of March. Mating of Olive Ridleys in the sea near this coast was also slightly delayed this year. “As per the records, in the past mass nesting had occurred at Rushikulya rookery coast even in April. So, we still hope that mass nesting would occur here,” said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Ashis Behera.
This confidence was based on the findings of a forest department team that patrolled the sea near the rookery on Wednesday. Thousands of mother Olive Ridleys continue to congregate in the sea which hints that they may be waiting for some conducive time to start nesting, said the DFO.
Although the gestation period is around 50 days, the female Olive Ridleys have capacity to keep fertilised eggs inside their body for long time spans till they get proper environment and location to lay eggs, said Bivash Pandav, scientist of Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Speculation are being made for this delay in mass nesting. Some localites say sea erosion at the coast may be the reason. Erosion has made several sections of the beach a wall of sand of about two to three feet high. Moreover rain on February 26 and March 15 has packed up the sand tightly, which is a hindrance for the turtles who dig up the sand with their flappers to lay the eggs. Have the Olive Ridleys sensed this condition of the beach through some turtles who came out to the beach for sporadic nesting is a big question. Till now not much is known regarding the life and habits of Olive Ridleys who are considered too intelligent.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr Pandav said sea erosion cannot be a reason of delay in nesting as during mass nesting they are seen to climb sand walls higher than the ones formed in Rushikulya rookery coast. These intelligent reptiles can easily choose nearby region where there is no erosion, said the DFO. “It seems these turtles are waiting for wind to flow from land towards sea which always coincides with mass nesting. This wind prevents smell of eggs reaching predators on land near the coast,” said Mr Pandav.
He hoped that once the wind direction changes towards sea, locally known as ‘dakhsina paban’, Olive Ridleys will come out for mass nesting. Meanwhile, the forest department has already made all arrangements including establishment of observation camps, fencing of coast with nets and patrolling in sea for protection of Olive Ridleys and their eggs during their mass nesting.