Odisha: Millions of turtle eggs have been destroyed ironically by the turtles themselves at the nesting ground at the Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district, an official said today.
“It’s not predators like jackals or hyenas who are the destroyers. It’s the turtles who have extensively damaged the eggs laid by them,” a senior official said. The nesting ground at the idyllic Gahirmatha Island has re-established itself as the world’s largest known rookery of Olive Ridley turtles with 6.67 lakh sea turtles converging on the beach for mass nesting, but dismantling of eggs by the marine animals has triggered a disturbing trend, he said.
There has been large gathering of female turtles for laying of eggs. But turtles were found destroying nests laid earlier by breeding turtles, said Assistant Conservator of Forest, G Anand Kumar. The nesting ground of Olive Ridley turtles at outer wheelers’ Island in Gahirmatha area had got elongated this year following natural accretion process. It is stretched up to 1.5 km now while its length was one km last year.
Therefore, the beach proved congenial for turtles for mass nesting. However, these animals were found preferring particular sandy patches for mass nesting. So specific pockets of the nesting ground was overcrowded with turtles, resulting in eggs being destroyed by the animal themselves, said the official.
“Since the start of mass-nesting, described as ‘arribada’ (a Spanish term used for laying eggs by turtle species) on March 7, the third highest ever gathering of marine species has taken place with 6.67 lakh turtles turning up for nesting till Monday night. The intensity of mass nesting has come down. We are expecting turtles’ mass nesting for a couple of days more,” he said.
The marine species might have so far laid over eight to nine crore eggs. However, over three crore eggs have been damaged as per a conservative estimate, the official said. Though there was ample space in the beach for turtles to lay eggs, they chose specific spots for ‘arribada.’ As a result, space constraints hit the nesting beach. It has led to damage of eggs.
“Though a large congregation of turtles this year has made us jubilant, it upsets us to find destruction of eggs on a large scale on the nesting beach.
“Millions of eggs were smashed by nesting turtles who loitered around to find a congenial spot to dig pit and lay eggs. The turtles, little knowing the existence of nests, were sighted digging up the spot dismantling the already existing nests and eggs,” said Kumar.