Puri: Cyclonic storm Fani that made a landfall on Odisha coast May 3 has taken a heavy toll on the growth of Olive Ridley sea turtle population.
This year, only 30,922 baby turtles hatched out from 75,236 Olive Ridley eggs at five hatcheries in the district coast here, said sources in the Forest department.
“This year, baby turtles hatched out from only 41 per cent of the Olive Ridley eggs at our five hatcheries. This is the lowest figure in last five years,” said a source in the Forest department.
Thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles usually congregate at Devi estuary area in Puri district once in a year to lay eggs.
The sea turtles usually gather within 10 km off the coast within the month of November and May every year.
Soon after the mating season, Olive Ridleys come to the shore and lay up to 120 eggs each by digging holes.
To provide a safe breeding to the sea turtles, the state government puts restrictions on fishing through mechanised boats and trawlers within 10 km from the coast from November 1 to May 31.
In order to save the eggs from animals and birds like jackals, hyenas, dogs and crows, the Forest department usually opens a few artificial hatcheries on Puri coast. Moreover, the Forest department employees usually collect turtle eggs from the nests and transport them to artificial hatcheries. Once the hatching process is over, the employees release the baby turtles to sea.
This year too, the Forest department had set up five hatcheries at Kahnarpur, Chandrabhaga, Gangadevi, Daluakani and Nuanai area on the Puri coast to hatch turtle eggs.
The Forest department employees had collected altogether 75,236 eggs from 804 nests and kept them at the hatcheries. It was expected that the eggs would hatch by June first week, sources said.
However the summer storm had ravaged the hatcheries and damaged thousands of Olive Ridley eggs.
“The eggs could not get the required temperature to hatch. So, around 60 per cent of the eggs got damaged at the hatcheries,” said the source.
As per available data, Forest department employees had collected 95,957 Olive Ridley eggs in 2014-15. However, baby turtles hatched out from 79,289 (82 per cent) eggs.
Similarly, the Forest department had collected 45,818 eggs in 2015-16. Baby turtles hatched out from 40,500 (88 per cent) eggs.
In 2016-17, altogether 88,218 eggs were collected and kept in the hatcheries. However, baby turtles hatched from 81,344 (92 per cent) eggs.
The data claimed that Forest department employees had collected altogether 84,132 Olive Ridley eggs in 2017-18. Baby turtles hatched from 72,314 (85 per cent) eggs.
Assistant conservator of forests (ACF) Rabindra Kumar Mahapatra said they had taken several steps to protect turtle eggs at Kahnarpur hatchery.
“We had covered the hatchery with polythene sheets and a thick layer of sand. Many baby turtles hatched out at the hatchery,” Mahapatra added.