Berhampur (Odisha), Apr 12 (PTI) With hatchlings starting to emerge from the eggs laid by Olive Ridley sea turtles, the forest department has imposed a ban on carrying mobile phones and visitors to the site of hatching of the endangered species along the Rushikulya river mouth near Ganjam.

“We have imposed a restriction on carrying mobile phones for taking selfies and even on visitors going right up to the hatchlings in a bid to protect them,” said Ashish Kumar Behera, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Berhampur.

He said legal action would be taken against the offenders under the Wildlife Protection Act. At least six flex boards bearing the legal provisions have been displayed near the mass nesting site, he added.

“We have made an enclosure for the visitors near the hatching site. They can watch the hatchlings emerging from the eggs and crawling back to the sea to begin their homeward journey from the enclosure itself. The visitors enclosure is around half a km from the site of hatching,” said the DFO.

The mass emergence of hatchlings, which started yesterday, is likely to continue for some more days.

The forest department has also requested several authorities to put off street lights for the next few days.

The baby turtles may get attracted towards the light and fall prey to predators, the officials said.

“We have taken all possible steps to protect the baby turtles. Adequate forces have been deployed. Local volunteers and fishermen have also been roped in to help the forest staff to protect the turtles,” said Swain.

He said the entire five-km stretch from Podampet to Bateswar had been fenced to prevent predators like wild dogs, fox and jackals from entering the site of hatching.

A record number of 4.45 lakh Olive Ridleys had laid eggs in the rookery during mass nesting from February 21 to 28.

After laying the eggs, the female turtles had returned to the sea.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.