Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary

Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary

Gahirmatha is the only turtle sanctuary in Odisha, located in Kendrapara . The Olive Ridley turtles travel across the South Pacific to breed on the coast of Gahirmatha. About 0.2 to 0.7 million Olive Ridley turtles visit the beach during mass nesting every year.

Spread over 1435 sq km, the sanctuary extends from mouth of Dhamra river in the north to the mouth of Mahanadi river in the south. The sanctuary forms part of Bhitarkanika national park. Gahirmatha was declared a turtle sanctuary in 1979 by Odisha government after considering its ecological importance and as part of efforts to save the sea turtles.

Olive Ridley turtles get their name from the coloring of their heart-shaped shell. It starts out gray but changes to olive green when the turtles turn adults. Olive Ridley sea turtles migrate in huge numbers from the beginning of November, every year, for mating and nesting along the coast of Odisha. Nesting season starts from December and lasts till end of April. The middle of March witnesses a peak. Olive Ridley turtles usually nest during night time.

The 35 km Gahirmatha coast, which forms part of the Bhirtarkanika National Park, is the best to witness the mass nesting of females, a phenomenon called arribadas.

The sandy coastline free of rocks and stones, presence of wetland, backwater and brackish water and mangrove vegetation is preferred by the turtles. Barrier island called Ekakulanasi off the Gahirmatha coast is the main turtle breeding ground.

The sanctuary is also home to variety of flora and fauna. Wild boar, barking deer, bear, leopard, crocodile, jungle fowl, samber and wild dogs are among the other wildlife seen in the sanctuary.