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Did Olive Ridley Turtles Sense Cyclone Fani Was Coming? Nesting at Odisha Beach Was Less Than 1% This Year

The coast of Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley Turtles, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica. In 1991, over 600,000 turtles nested along the coast of Odisha in one week.

News18.com

Updated:May 3, 2019, 5:07 PM IST
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Did Olive Ridley Turtles Sense Cyclone Fani Was Coming? Nesting at Odisha Beach Was Less Than 1% This Year
File photo of a Olive Ridley turtle

The Olive Ridley Turtles did not return to the Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam district of Odisha for their annual mass nesting this year, baffling officials and leading many to think that it could be the species sensing an impending climatic disaster. Less than 3,000 nests were laid this year, compared to the earlier numbers of nearly 5 lakh.

Over 10 lakh people were evacuated to temporary shelters in the state as Cyclone Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999, made landfall on Friday close to the temple town of Puri.

At least six people have died as the cyclone slammed Odisha, uprooting trees and electricity poles, and cut off power supply in many parts of the state.

Parveen Kaswan, an IFS officer in Bangalore wrote on Twitter, “In an interesting fact Olive #Ridley #turtles this year skipped their annual phenomenon of mass nesting at Rushikulya beach, Odisha. May be not all species require weather forecasting department to sense #cyclone Fani on time. Many species are known for their sense of disaster.”

Preparation to facilitate mass nesting at the rookery went unutilized this year. The endangered species reach the coast for mating between November and the second week of January each year.

Afterwards, they reach the beach to lay their eggs. “But this year, they didn’t turn up at Rushikulya beach, even though the mass nesting began at Gahirmatha coast in Kendrapara district,” said an official.

While the forest department said it was too soon to ascertain the exact cause of them not coming to the beach, an official pointed out, “They had also not come to the list in 2002, 2007 and 2016. Last year, the beach saw 4.75 lakh Olive Ridleys nesting on the beach. But this year, it was only less than 3,000.”

Best known for their behavior of synchronised mass nesting, females return to the same beach where they hatched to lay their eggs. The nest are conical and about a foot and a half deep in the sand.

The coast of Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for the species, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica. In 1991, over 600,000 turtles nested along the coast of Odisha in one week.

The Olive Ridley is classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I of CITES. These listings were largely responsible for halting the large-scale commercial exploitation and trade of Olive Ridley skin.

However the species continued to be threatened with both eggs and hatchlings being threatened by predators, while fishing practices remains a threat. “Between 1993 and 2003, more than 100,000 Olive Ridley turtles were reported dead in Odisha, India from fishery-related practices,” said an official, adding that conservation practices have since greatly aided in conservation of the species.

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