By Basudev Mahapatra
The arribada of Gahirmatha India is late. The annual arribada, a Spanish word to describe arrival of sea turtles in hundreds of thousands, to nest on the coast, usually takes place between January and March every year.
The world's largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles, at Gahirmatha India, still waits for the Olive Ridley sea turtles, a marine species that visit the river mouth in huge numbers every year for mating and mass nesting. This has become quite a reason of worry for wildlife lovers and officials of the concerned department.
The marine visitors start coming to the sea close to the river mouth during October-November for mating.
This year, the forest department had spotted turtles mating in parts of the sea, close to the mouth. But the event of mass nesting, an activity that places Gahirmatha on the international wildlife map, has not yet taken place. However, "sporadic cases of nesting are seen along the coasts and by now about thousand turtles have nested," said the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kedar Kumar Swain of Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division.
"The turtles have congregated in large numbers in the river mouth and adjacent coastal sea. They are not coming up for nesting. The activity is delayed, probably, due to the rain a few days back. However, we expect it to happen any day and, may be, in 2-3 days," said DFO Swain adding that "no prediction works in a natural phenomenon. We can only hope."
To the wildlife experts, coastal erosion resulted in geographical changes in the area are, perhaps, the reasons why turtles are not coming up to the beaches for mass nesting.
Some say that the activities of Dhamra Port would be disturbing to the turtles too. Impact of the port on annual activities of turtles was apprehended since planning of the Port on Dhamra River Mouth.
Even though the wildlife department claims to have taken all measures to ensure safe and peaceful nesting, "there are frequent trawler movements and increasing human activities that would be causing disturbance for the turtles to move," said a local journalist.
Citing that the mass nesting has occurred even in the later part of April in past years, the wildlife officials are still hopeful that the event may take place in a few days because the beach condition is quite conducive for nesting activity.
It's to be noted that Gahirmatha happens to be the first known rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles in Odisha. It attracts maximum turtles for mass nesting than the two other rookeries in the state, one at Rushikulya River Mouth and the other at Devi River Mouth.