Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles nest in peace at empty Odisha beaches as Coronavirus keeps people in lock down

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles nest in peace at empty Odisha beaches as Coronavirus keeps people in lock down
The endangered Olive Ridley sea turtleWikipedia

Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery is where the endangered Olive Ridley comes to dig nests and lay eggs. After last year’s no-show, the sea turtles have returned to the state’s coast this year.

According to the Forest Department, over 70,000 Olive Ridleys arrived to take part in the unusual event of day-time mass nesting. Normally, throngs of people — tourists and locals — generally show up to watch the sea turtles and authorities have to deploy considerable resources to keep them away from the habitat.

However, this year, due to the nationwide 21-day lockdown, turtles are largely left undisturbed.

The Olive Ridley’s fight for survival
Every year, the Forest Department creates hatcheries along the Indian coast. Once nesting is completed, it releases the hatchlings into the sea.

Last year, this entire process was delayed due to Cyclone Titli. In fact, no Olive Ridley’s showed up in Rushikulya. The hatcheries, which were restored — in Koozhaiyar, Kottagaimedu and other locations — had to delay their entire process due to after effects of the cyclone.

This year, the state cleaned cyclone debris, and prepped hatcheries for the turtles in hope that they would return.

At least 50% of the world population of Olive Ridley turtles arrives at the state’s coasts for nesting, according to the Odisha Wildlife Organisation (OWO).

Making sure the eggs survive the nesting period, the Forest Department ropes in fishermen and volunteers to keep dogs and other predators at bay. Even if eggs grow into hatchlings, they have to face the odds against the ocean. The little critters are a meal ticket for birds and crabs.

The bigger threat comes from fishing boats which accidentally catch hatchings in their nets. This year, the Forest Department deployed two trawlers and a country boat to monitor the ocean and keep fishing vessels at bay.

Over time, Olive Ridleys can grow to be as big at 2 feet in size and weigh up to 50 kilos.

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