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Wildlife lovers dismayed over destruction of turtle eggs




 With a record six lakh Olive Ridley turtles converging on the sandy beach of Gahirmatha this year for the annual mass nesting, several million turtle eggs have been destroyed ironically by the turtles themselves due to space crunch leaving wildlife enthusiasts dismayed.

          Since start of mass-nesting, described as ‘arribada’ (a Spanish term used for en masse laying eggs by turtle species) on February 22, the third highest ever congregation of marine species has taken place in unmanned Island with 6,04,641 turtles turning up for nesting till Thursday night, a wildlife official said today.

          The marine species have so far laid over seven 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 one-km stretch 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, Gahirmatha Forest Range Officer Subrat Patra said.

          "Though 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. It’s not predators like jackals or hyenas who are the destroyers. It’s the turtles who have extensively damaged the eggs incidentally laid by them", Gahirmatha Forest Range Officer, Patra said.

          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. It’s not possible to stop the destruction of eggs, the officer said.

            Though the nesting beach stretches upto one km, it has turned highly irregular and uneven in shape in different patches. As a result, turtles are getting distracted to lay eggs in certain sandy pockets. Turtles have mostly laid eggs in roughly 700 metre of the 1000 metre-long beach. So space constraints led to egg destruction, Patra said.

          Stench stemming from the ‘ravaged’ eggs permeates the beach. The turtles arrive at night and leave before sunrise. The forest staff have quite a hectic task to gather the damaged eggs and dump it after digging a ditch on the beach almost on a daily basis, he said.

          "Our utmost job is now to ensure the safety of the still intact egg filled nests. The day-and-night vigil has been intensified to save the nests from natural predators like jackals, hyenas and stray dogs. The nest barricades have been spread out along southern portion of the nesting ground which is prone to animal intrusion," said the forest official.

          The olive species lays about 80 to 120 eggs each in pits they dig up for the purpose. They climb the shore after sunset and vanish into the sea before sunrise.

          The rate of mortality of these endangered species is quite high. The hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 60 days. But not all eggs remain intact as predators also devour it, the official said.

          Besides, eggs are also washed away by sea waves during high tide. The eggs are incubated in the nest and grow, sans mother, to emerge as hatchlings, Patra said.






Editorial

Précis 2017
From asking his party men to ‘live a simple life and serve the people’ to taunting the BJP for its ‘crocodile tears’, Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik has not only become politically invincible, he seems to be so in the coming years too.

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