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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 17:42 GMT
Turtles return to nest in India
The BBC's Jyotsna Singh
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Thousands of endangered sea turtles have arrived back on the Indian coast to lay their eggs.

Wildlife activists say they are relieved to see the mass nesting of the Olive Ridleys finally taking place in the eastern state of Orissa.

An olive ridley turtle
Volunteers are protecting eggs laid by the Olive Ridleys
There was no mass nesting last year at any of Orissa's three important egg-laying sites, which had caused concern.

But now the Wildlife Protection Society of India says about 50,000 of the sea turtles have clambered ashore to lay their eggs along just a one-kilometre stretch of beach at the mouth of the Rushikulya River.

The mass nesting follows sporadic arrivals of between 100 and 300 turtles in previous days.

"News of the turtle nesting has come as a great relief to conservationists," said the society's Belinda Wright.

The mouth of the Rushikulya River is one of three key nesting areas in Orissa, with the mouth of the Devi River and the Nasi Islands in Gahirmatha.

Map showing Orissa
The wildlife society says there has also been significant nesting of turtles at Pentha beach in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary this year.

It says about 10,000 turtles nested there over a three-day period earlier this month.

But there has been no mass nesting - or arribada - yet in the Nasi Islands which are renowned for this rare natural phenomenon.


Field watchers from the group have been deployed to help officials count nesting turtles as well as to protect the eggs from predators such as dogs, jackals, wild boar, hyenas, crows, eagles and gulls.

The conservation organisation alleges that Olive Ridleys have been killed by illegal trawler fishing in prohibited zones of the Rushikulya River.

It claims that more than 2,200 dead turtles have been counted on one stretch of river in the last four months.

The group says the Rushikulya River-mouth nesting-beach faces an additional threat from a proposed crude oil terminal project.

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