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Jun 15, 1999 | From the print edition

Olive Ridley sea turtles that arrived at the Gahirmatha beach in Orissa after a gap of two years continue to be in the news. Even before the excitement over the mass nesting has faded, the hatchlings have started to emerge ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 21).

The first hatchlings were reported from Pentha, a new nesting site, in the last week of April, chief wildlife warden Saroj K Patnaik said in Bhubaneshwar. The warden said that though the eggs normally take about 40 days to hatch, it could happen earlier this time due to the current heat wave being experienced by the region. However, the heat can also be dangerous for the hatchlings, he said.

The narrow beach at Pentha, between 10-20 metres wide and 1.5-km-long located 27 km south of Gahirmatha, was chosen by over 7,000 turtles for nesting first on March 12. Tiny hatchlings that have been emerging continuously since April 25, head for the edge of the water as soon as they hatch. According to the experts, the tiny female hatchlings live in the sea for 25 to 30 years before returning to the same beach where they were born for mass nesting.

The mass nesting at Pentha signalled the return of the turtles to their traditional breeding grounds, at a time when environmentalist had presumed that the turtles had abandoned the beach for good. Large-scale trawling was seen as the main cause for scaring away the turtles. Since last year, the government made it compulsory for the trawlers to install turtle excluder device (TED).

The use of bright lights on the beaches by the fisherfolk was stated to be the other reason due to which the turtles were said to be avoiding the coast.

The authorities also took strict action against illegal trawlers. Patnaik said wildlife personnel had been deployed around the nesting areas to ensure the protection of the hatchlings.

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