Thursday, 10 April 2014

The little known rookery

The world’s largest known rookery of Oliver Ridley turtles is in Orissa and thousands of  Nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, zoologists and researchers flock to the Gahirmatha Beach to witness the turtles mate, nest and hatch.
The beach separates the Bhitarkarnika mangroves from the Bay of Bengal and it forms part of the Gahirmatha Marine reserve. Apart from this beach, Orissa has two other known nesting areas for turtles and they are on the mouth of  Rushikulya and Devi rivers. The Olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is primarily found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean and over recent years, Orissa has attained international recognition for this mass congregation of turtles.
However, there are many other places in India where Oliver Ridley turtles mate, nest and return to the Sea. Though they may not be in the numbers seen on the Orissa beach, they are a fascinating sight and what is more many of these areas are relatively unknown.
One such place is in Karnataka but very few people know about it. The Murudeshwar-Gangavali coastline of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka is known for the breeding of this critically endangered species
The beach along the 75-kilometre long Murudeshwar - Gangavali route on the west coast is ideal for breeding of these turtles between November and February.
However, a few cluster of turtle eggs have been found even between September-October and February-March. Last year, close to 2.86 lakhs eggs were laid by these turtles.
Potential nesting beaches include Jali, Talmakki, Murdeshwar and Baindoor in Bhatkal taluk, Apsarakonda and Manki, Haldipur in Honnavar taluk and Dhareshwar, Baad-Kagal, Gokarn and Gangavali beaches in Kumta taluk.
The Olive Ridley turtle is so named  because of the greenish color of its skin and shell. It is close relative of the Kemp’s Ridley. Both these turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles, which prefer the open ocean. They migrate hundreds or thousands of miles every year, and females congregate once an year in selected beaches where they lag eggs and swim back.
Olive Ridleys have nesting sites in tropical and subtropical beaches all over the world. Generally carnivorous, they feed on snails, crabs, jellyfish and shrimp. They are also known to eat algae and seaweed too. Hatchlings, most of which perish before reaching the safety of the ocean, fall prey to birds, crabs, raccoons, pigs and snakes.
They also provided protection to the eggs in absence of their mother turtles. After laying eggs, the female turtles go back to the deep sea without waiting to see the hatchlings, which generally emerge around 45 days of the nesting. "We have made fencing in around 5-km long area,"
Apart from Orissa and Karnataka, these turtles are also found in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and of course West Bengal.  Do you want to see Olive Ridley turtles nearer home. Then head for Murudeshwar, a small town in Bhatkal taluk. The nearest airport is Mangalore, which is 160 kilometre away. Murudeshwar has a railway station and it is on the Konkan railway route.

Murudeshwar beach has two beautiful temples and the statue of Shiva, which is the second tallest in the world, is awe inspiring. The sea shore is inhabited by crabs and you can see crabs digging holes in the beach sand. Bathing is not allowed in the beach since the sea is inhabited by crabs and scores of people have been bitten by crabs. 

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