Residents of Podampeta, a predominantly fisher-folk village, near the Rushikulya mouth in Ganjam district are engaged in protecting Olive Ridley sea turtles, who are climbing the beach for mass nesting.
The villagers consider arrival of the sea creature as harbinger of good times.
“The turtle (kurma) in Hindu mythology is considered an incarnation of Vishnu,” said L Arreya, a villager.
“The villagers ensure that the turtles remain unharmed during nesting,” he added.
Another resident A Someya said the turtles very often enter houses, located on the seafront. “We re-direct the turtles towards beach,” said another villager.
The mass nesting has taken place in the three-km stretch from Podampeta to Gokharakuda.
“The process started on Friday. Over 1.60 lakh female turtles have already laid eggs in the last three days. We expect their numbers to cross 2.50 lakh due to pleasant climate and good beach condition,” said divisional forest officer (DFO) Berhampur, SS Mishra.
Hundreds of nature lovers, wildlife activists and researchers from different parts of the state and neighboring Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have thronged the site to witness the phenomenon.
“As a large number of visitors are visiting the rookery, we allow them in two sectors to witness the laying of eggs,” said the DFO.
He said restriction has been imposed on visit to other 31 sectors because presence of people might hinder nesting.
Chief secretary Gokul Chandra Pati, energy secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra and health secretary Arti Ahuja had visited the beach on Saturday to witness and take stock of egg-laying process.
Rushikulya mouth is considered the second largest rookery for Olive Ridleys after Gahiramatha in Kendrapada district.