India: Olive Ridley Turtles mass nesting begins in Odisha coast 20 Feb 13;

Berhampur: A record number of over 3 lakh Olive Ridley turtles have laid eggs in Odisha coast within a span of only one week, officials said today.

This time the turtles mostly laid their eggs near the river Rushikulya mouth in Ganjam district, about 60 km from here.

The mass nesting of turtles began in Rushikulya river mouth on February 13. Last year, the turtles had congregated for mass nesting at the Rushikulya beach on February 29.

While around 2.60 lakh turtles had laid eggs in the Rushikulya rookery in 2008-09. Last year, 1.07 lakh turtles nested the beach.

"This time, they broke the previous record and over three lakh Olive Ridley Turtles laid eggs so far," said divisional forest officer, Berhampur S S Mishra. Despite rains lashed in the area on Sunday evening,over 8,700 Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs in the wee hours of Monday, he said.

Since some more turtles were floating in the sea, DFO said the nesting was likely to continue for some more days.

The Olive Ridleys, listed under Schedule 1 of the endangered species list, nested in two places this time. While around 2.50 lakh were nested in the 3.50-km long Sandbar between Kantiagada and Podampeta, another 50,000 turtles nested near Purunabandh area, he said.

Mass nesting of the Olive ridley started today followed by the sporadic nesting in the area.

Clean nesting sites and conducive atmosphere are some of the reasons attributed to the record number of Olive Ridleys visited the rookery for nesting, experts said.

This time, the turtles started nesting about a fortnight earlier in the rookery, forest officials said.

Forest officials made elaborate arrangements for smooth and safe nesting of the turtles. The entire area was divided into 32 sectors. Forest personnel and local volunteers have been deployed in each sector for counting the eggs.

They also provided protections to the eggs in absent of their mother turtles, said DFO.

After laying eggs, the female turtles go to the deep sea without waiting to see the hatchels, which generally emerged around 45 days of the nesting.

"The local people in the area are cooperating with the forest personnel to protect the eggs," said Rabindra Nath Sahu secretary of the Rushikulya Sea Turtles Protection Committee.

Besides Rushikulya river mouth, the turtles also nest in Gahiramatha beach and Devi river mouth in the state. But the mass nesting in other two places are yet to start.