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March 16, 2010

Endangered Olive Ridley turtles start mass nesting in Orissa

     Bhubneswer: The endangered Olive Ridley turtles began mass nesting at the Rushikulya beach in Orissa late on Monday night. Around 20,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles crawled ashore from the Bay of Bengal, almost after a month's delay, to lay eggs at the 2.5km long Rushikulya river mouth between Kantiagada and Gokharkuda villages in the Ganjam district. The mass nesting started late at night, continued till early hours of the morning and hundreds of female turtles were seen digging pits to lay their eggs. Turtle lovers and experts were worried on account of delay, since mass nesting had occurred at the beach on February 14 last year. This year there has been a delay of a month. Sadly, most eggs are likely to be lost due to late nesting, as beach erosion takes place in summer. "Every year, almost 8,000-10,000 Olive Ridleys die. However, the nesting is going on and this time around 2 to 3 lakh Olive Ridleys have come to the beach to nest. Unfortunately, the size of the Olive Ridleys is decreasing year by year. We are seeing much smaller Olive Ridleys than 10-15 years ago," Biswajit Mohanty, coordinator of the turtle conservation group Operation Kachhapa. Mohanty added that high waves and fierce winds are likely to destroy the nesting beaches, exposing the eggs to water leading to loss of lakhs of turtle eggs. Visitors thronged in large numbers to see this beautiful spectacle of nature. "It is so amazing...I haven't seen so many turtles. I work for a turtle project back in Europe but we only had 400 turtles on the whole island in the entire season. So, to come here to Orissa and see so many turtles in one night is absolutely amazing," said Illiyana, a foreign tourist. Rushikulya river mouth is the only place on the Orissa coast where turtles are safe from marauding trawlers leading to negligible turtle casualties. However, several irreversible threats now loom over the sea turtles due to ports, oil terminals and offshore oil drilling. The two other nesting sites in the state are along the Nasi Islands in Gahirmatha in the district of Kendrapada and the Devi river mouth in Puri. While mass nesting started in the Nasi Islands last month it has not yet started at the Devi river mouth
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