Night of the Hatchlings

Sometime back, I visited Chilika Lagoon of Odhisha, India, as part of the National Nature Camping Programme organized by Government of India. Although I went to educate kids and teachers, I cannot stop myself from exploring nature. Staying in the middle of a flourishing scrub jungle, how could I live without smelling the scenic scent of Chilika Lagoon?

Ruchikulya, one of the mass nesting site of the Olive Ridley sea turtle species, was just a few kilometers away from our tent. I was glad of my companion, Hussain, who is a wildlife researcher.

I was very excited about the nesting habit of Olive Ridley sea turtle, hearing about its complete details from Hussain, and was eagerly waiting to experience it. All the kids and teachers were asleep after a tiresome trekking session on the first day of our camp, so we decided to leave the camp, leaving it in the care of the janitor.

We walked our way towards the Ruchikulya beach passing through Poornabandha village. It was a most terrifying walk that I ever experienced till date, yet memorable indeed. Spotted owlets and peafowls howling, crickets screeching, dogs barking, cats fighting; we even heard some unusual noises of some animals and birds. We switched off our torches and walked along the tiniest foot path along the bushes. Reaching the spot, we saw a small tent near the shore which Hussain said is for the turtle conservationist to take a nap. Alas, for us; the conservationist-in-making occupied it for the night.
Olive Ridley
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling

We waited for two hours for the turtles but nothing turned up. I dozed off as a cool sea breeze swayed the tent. After a while, my friend woke me up in excitement to see the miraculous sight. I saw around four Olive Ridley sea turtles flapping their way towards the shore, so they could dig in the sand to lay their eggs.

As we were astonished by this sight, my friend had another spectacular scene: little Olive Ridley hatchlings coming out from under the sand, crawling and pushing their way out. Within minutes, a bunch of hatchlings followed.  It was beyond belief for us witnessing both the adult and the hatchlings on the same night.

In the meantime, we could see many stray dogs roaming around the beach in search of food. Maybe they knew that these hatchlings would come out any time and were hunting for them. Before these beautiful hatchlings became their food, we thought that something should be done in order to save these tiny beautiful creatures. We found a gunny sack in the tent, which Hussain said is used to relocate eggs to save them from these predator dogs.

Why we can’t use this sack to collect hatchlings now, I thought. I immediately suggested my idea to Hussain for which he said he was also thinking of the same thing. We acted immediately and carefully collected every hatchling coming out from the sand and put them inside the sack. We even dug the sand to see how many were left behind. After half an hour of intense search, we were left with a sack full of beautiful hatchlings. We did not count them as we were in a hurry.

We then went near the sea water and left every hatchling there with utmost care. Hussain said that the hatchlings should walk through sand to find the water; hence we left them on the sand a few feet before water. We were also very keen on the stray dogs, watching the process. After a while, every hatchling found the water and swam through safely.

We felt extremely happy and satisfied. It was such a lovely sight, and I still cannot forget each and every thing that happened on that eve. The most amazing and beautiful part of all is that the hatchlings after attaining adulthood will come back to this same place where they were born to lay their eggs.
Night of the Hatchlings Night of the Hatchlings Reviewed by Gowthama Rajavelu on 14:18 Rating: 5

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