The coronavirus pandemic has taken an extreme toll on human beings. After being declared a global pandemic, many countries have slowly gone into a complete lockdown. In Italy and America, things are not looking good as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise. India, one of the most populated countries in the world, has gone into a nation-wide lockdown. But with the lack of human beings interrupting nature, nature has slowly started taking over the world. In India, nature has brought forth a surge of Olive Ridley sea turtles.
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The arribada or the mass nesting of olive Ridleys is nothing short of magic. Olive Ridleys live in oceans and only come to land to nest. When the females grow up, they return to the same beaches to lay eggs. How they navigate back was a mystery for a long time but recent science suggests that individual beaches have magnetic fields unique to them. When the turtles hatch, these fields are imprinted into their brains, allowing them to sense it when they need to return. It’s a magnificent internal compass as accurate as the latitudes and longitudes used by humans. Read a spectacular story by Swati Thiyagarajan @swatithiyagarajan on the nesting phenomenon on our website. Link in bio. . Photo: Kartik Shanker @shanker_kartik #arribada #odisha #oliveridley #oliveridleyturtle #nesting #rushikulya #turtle #India #wildlife #conservation #biodiversity #wildlifeIndia #turtles🐢 #massnesting #breed #naturalworld #rgsustain
It is quite astounding how lockdowns have brought about a change in the power dynamics between the natural world and the human world. Pollution is going down in many areas already. The coast in Odisha is a place where once Olive Ridley sea turtles used to come in flocks. With people frequenting the beach, this endangered species had limited their visits to the beach. Generally, the Olive Ridley sea turtles come to shore to around 6 km or 3.75 mile inwards in the Rushikulya beach and lay eggs.
But after this national lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds and thousands of these endangered turtles are coming in, and having a mass nesting season this year – one of the most successful ones in many years.
As per the forest service, more than 250,000 mother turtles have engaged in building nests in the past week.
ARRIBADA ~Spanish Word – means 'Arrival' 🐢
Refers to mass-nesting event when 1000s of Turtles come ashore at the same time to lay eggs on the same beach.
Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs.
🏖️ Olive Ridley Turtle pic.twitter.com/dvzslqA8zW
— Ankit Kumar, IFS🇮🇳 (@AnkitKumar_IFS) March 26, 2020
Whenever this used to happen in normal conditions, tourists would flock in to see the event, and that would cause a major mishap. Turtles do not like to nest with so much human attention, and the Forest department struggles to control the crowd. Plus, jackals and crows also get attracted to the area and attack the eggs. Even poachers rob the eggs and sell them in the local market.
As per The Hindu, there have not been any such disturbances due to the nation-wide lockdown. Only 25 forest researchers and guards are allowed on the beach to protect these endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
There has been another mass nesting which took place in Gahirmatha Beach – another place in Odisha along the Bay of Bengal. It has been estimated that around 60,000,000 eggs are going to be laid this year.
— Harikrishnan S (@_harikrishnan_s) March 26, 2020
One of the problems that occurs with Olive Ridley sea turtles is that when the mother lays eggs, many eggs get destroyed due to the mother’s weight on the eggs. Thousands can get destroyed in this manner. However, this is a natural occurrence during mass nestings. Every mother turtle can lay around 80-100 eggs on average. Generally, these eggs take around 45 days to hatch and then, the hatchlings move to the sea.
The Olive Ridley sea turtles skipped laying eggs on this beach last year. But now, this mass nesting seems like a great turn of fate.
This year, the highest numbers of turtles appeared on the beach. As per the Forest Department, there are good and bad years and this generally happens alternatively. However, there was a gradual increase in nesting for the last two years. The estimation for this year is around 4.75 lakh Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Image Credit: Kartik Shanker