Turtle babies flood beach in Rishikulya

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Rishikulya (Orissa), Apr 28 : About 150,000 baby turtles emerged from their shells and crawled out of the sandy shores of the Rishikulya beach in Orissa, one of the world's largest nesting grounds for Olive Ridley turtles.

"It is very heartening and delightful to see that nesting has happened this year and hatching has also occurred. Almost all babies have come out except those 30 per cent, which were washed away, by the water. They are going towards the sea," said Bishwajit Mohanty, Director of Operation Kachchap.

Hatching is the most crucial time for the tiny animals as many, unable to clear off the huge loads of sand from their dens, often die of suffocation or if they manage to reach land, are picked up by crows, eagles, jackals and stray dogs.

But in recent years, conservationists have come to their rescue and together with villagers and dozens of volunteers, many of them children, as well as the forest department, rescue and safely deliver the babies into the sea.

The conservationists have also put up a net to prohibit these young ones to crawl in upward direction and getting lost.

"I am coming here for the second time. I just saw a few turtles emerging and children are doing some very good work, collecting the turtles. Initially, there was no net to stop the turtles from going outside and getting lost. This is very good to keep the turtles safe, the baby hatchlings," said Deepani, a visitor from Gujarat.

Every year as winter rolls around, the endangered Olive Ridleys move in large groups to three major nesting sites along the Orissa coast before returning to the sea. Over a million turtles made their ritual trek to the nesting sites to dig sand pits and lay eggs in February.

According to wildlife officials, over 250,000 turtles make their annual trek to the nesting sites.

In 2004, over one million turtles came to the Orissa shores to digs and pits and lay eggs, the largest concentration being at Gohirmatha beach. Such large concentrations only occur at a few sites in the world.

The turtles are protected under Wildlife Protection Act, but conservationists say as many as 50,000 turtles have died in the hands of humans, either directly or indirectly over the past few years.

The Olive Ridley turtle, which can grow up to 75 cm in length, is found in tropical regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.


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