Bhubaneswar: The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has undertaken the project of tagging Olive Ridley turtles along the Gahirmatha coast for studying the migration route of these endangered marine creatures, who turn up in large numbers for mass nesting in Odisha’s nesting grounds.
Last time, the Wildlife Institute of India had tagged the turtles in 1997 and 2011 in Gahirmatha coast. The tagged turtles were later sighted reappearing at the nesting ground. Thus the tagging experiment conducted last time had provided evidence that the female turtles return to the same beach annually for laying their eggs, where they were born decades ago, said ZSI officials.
More than 1,000 female turtles have so far been fitted with metallic flipper tags and the exercise had begun last week after the female turtles had turned up at the Gahirmatha rookery for mass nesting. Earlier in January this year, these turtles were tagged along the Rushikulya river mouth.
“The ZSI has taken up the project with the State forest department lending logistic support to the project. A total of 30,000 turtles are targeted to be tagged in the ongoing exercise in Gahirmatha, Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth”, said Bikash Chandra Dash, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division.
The tagging is being conducted to obtain information on reproductive biology movement. Sea turtles throughout the world are known to migrate thousands of kilometers between their nesting beaches and feeding grounds. The tagging helps in studying the turtle’s migratory route and areas of foraging, said ZSI officials.
The Olive turtles turn up in millions for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year. Gahirmatha beach off Bay of Bengal coast in Kendrapara district is incidentally acclaimed as World’s largest-known nesting ground of these animals.
Apart from Gahirmatha, these threatened aquatic animals turn up at Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth for mass nesting, otherwise called arribada. Around 3 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had turned up for their annual sojourn for mass nesting at Gahirmatha beach this year as the natural heritage of enmasse egg-laying is still continuing at the serene Nasi-2 Island of Gahirmatha nesting ground.
The female turtles had emerged from the sea to crawl on to the serene beach, dig pits to lay millions of eggs. Last season, 4.50 lakh turtles had turned up to lay eggs at the nesting ground, said officials.