Much to the delight of conservationists, around one lakh endangered Olive Ridley turtles have turned up at the serene Gahirmatha beach of Orissa for mass nesting during the last couple of days.
"The Nasi-1 Island, near Defence Research and Development Organisation's defence installation at Wheeler's Island, is witness to the laying of eggs by the marine visitors," Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division, said.
The turtles' sojourn in unmanned island with idyllic environment has been a treat to watch, forest officials said.
As the territory where turtles have congregated to lay eggs is very close to the prohibited defence project, there are none to witness this unique natural phenomenon.
Under DRDO directions, visitors and outsiders are stopped from making their way to the place. Only forest personnel on turtle protection duty have access to the nesting ground, said forest officials.
The one kilometre stretch nesting ground is teeming with nesting Olive Ridley marine turtles who continue to enjoy threatened status equal to that of Bengal tigers in the country. Nearly one lakh species have turned up in a day. The nesting that is expected to continue for a week would pick up in coming days, officials said.
"It is a virtual treat to watch as these species made their nocturnal visits. Emerging from the seawaters, they head towards the sandy beaches," an official on turtle protection duty, said.
The turtles loiter around the serene beach for quite a while before locating their preferred places to lay eggs. Digging out pits, they have been laying eggs.
The species stay over an hour or so at the nesting ground before undertaking their seaward journey, officials said.
About 50 forest personnel are deployed on the beach to keep vigil and to ensure the safe and undisturbed mass nesting of the turtles.
"The tranquil beach has seemingly come alive with these nocturnal visitors," said DFO Mahapatra who witnessed mass nesting also popularly described arribada, a Spanish term for egg laying.
Round-the-cloak vigil is on to ensure safe arribada and to keep the predators like wild dogs at bay, he said.
An Olive Ridley usually lays about 120 to 150 eggs from which hatchlings emerge after about 45 to 50 days. But not all eggs remain intact as predators kill them to eat.
Besides, eggs are also washed away by sea waves during high tide. The eggs are incubated in the nest and grow to emerge as hatchlings.