RAJAHMUNDRY: Over two lakh Olive Ridley hatchlings are expected to be released into the sea, along the coast of Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary, by the end of May.
As many as 23 turtles had arrived to the shore so far to lay eggs. With each one laying around 120 eggs at a stretch, nearly 2,760 eggs were laid by January 27, based on the reports given by turtle watchers. In the last four days, a few more turtles arrived and laid several hundred eggs.
The forest authorities have set up as many as nine hatcheries in six places, including Palakayatippa, Light House, Sangameswaram, Nachu-gunta, Surya Lanka and at Nizampatnam in order to facilitate both in-situ and ex-situ conservation of the eggs of turtles.
It takes 45 to 50 days for each egg to hatch. As the turtles go back to the sea after laying eggs, predators such as jackals, wild dogs, wild boars and birds are on the prowl to eat the eggs.
The authorities have engaged nearly 80 local people belonging to ‘Yanadi’ and fishermen communities to keep watch on the hatcheries from the predators.
In case of the turtles laying eggs in sand pits near the coast, chances are they may be destroyed by the tidal waves. So, the watchers relocate such eggs to the hatcheries set up by them in safe places and facilitate ex-situ conservation.
Some turtles lay eggs in sand pits located far away from the sea coast in a secure place and facilitate in-situ conservation.
Moreover, as a measure to protect the eggs from predators, the authorities have set up fencing around the hatchery by erecting bamboo sticks at a certain height and provide a cover on top so that the eggs remain secure until they are hatched.
The hatcheries are set up along the coast on islets and the watchers have to travel via boat and walk for two to three km to reach the hatcheries.
The authorities supply essential commodities to the watchers once in a week so that they will cook and eat food on the shore till May-end . By that time, all the hatchlings will be released into the sea.
The authorities say that the sex determination of hatchlings is a unique phenomenon based on the temperature in the nest and this is called ‘pivotal temperature’.
The temperature varies slightly in the nest. At a relatively cold temperature like 28 degrees centigrade, hatchlings will become male and if the temperature goes up beyond that level, the hatchlings will turn into females. After breaking out of their egg shells, the hatchlings remain in the nest for several days surviving on mucus, after which they come out in masse from the nest.
As the hatchlings have a basic instinct of going towards the sea, they move out from the nest under ideal conditions to cool sand at dawn and rush into the sea.
They become vulnerable to predators during the short journey from their nests to the sea. After entering into the sea, they will be eaten by fish. Their survival rate is one per 1,000 hatchlings.
“We are hopeful of releasing over two lakh Olive Ridley hatchlings this season in to the sea as we have taken up conservation of hatcheries in a big way,” forest assistant Conservator, Eluru, N. Ramachandra Rao said.