Monday, September 18, 2023

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary UPSC

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is located in the Indian state of Odisha, on the northeastern coast of India. It is internationally renowned for its critical role as a nesting ground for the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).

The primary reason for the sanctuary's existence is to protect and conserve the Olive Ridley sea turtles that come here for nesting. These turtles are known for their synchronized mass nesting events called "arribadas," during which thousands of turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.

The nesting season for Olive Ridley turtles at Gahirmatha usually occurs from November to April. During this time, the females make their way to the sandy shores to lay their eggs, and later, the hatchlings make their way to the sea. 

Each female turtle lays about 100 to 140 eggs on an average. It is the only spot of mass nesting in the Indian Ocean region and the only turtle sanctuary in Odisha.

The sanctuary features extensive mangrove forests that serve as important nurseries for various marine species and provide protection against coastal erosion.

Table of Contents

  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Location
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary History
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Area
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary River
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Flora
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Fauna
    • Mammals
    • Birds
    • Reptile
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary UPSC Questions

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Location

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is located in the Kendrapara district of Odisha, India. It extends along the coastline from the Dhamra River mouth in the north to the Brahmani River mouth in the south. 

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Nearest Airport:

The nearest airport to Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is the Biju Patnaik International Airport (75 km), which is located in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. From Bhubaneswar, you can travel to Gahirmatha by road.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Nearest Railway Station:

The nearest major railway station to Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is the Bhadrak Railway Station, which is well-connected to various cities in India. Bhadrak is approximately 60-70 kilometers away from Gahirmatha. From Bhadrak, you can continue your journey to the sanctuary by road, either by hiring a taxi or taking a bus.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary History

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary has a significant historical and ecological background. Here's a brief history of the sanctuary:

Establishment as a Sanctuary: The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary was officially declared as a protected area in 1997 by the Government of Odisha. This decision was made due to its ecological significance and its importance as a nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles.

Importance for Olive Ridley Turtles: The sanctuary's history is closely tied to its role as a crucial nesting ground for Olive Ridley sea turtles. These turtles have been coming to the beaches of Gahirmatha for centuries to lay their eggs. The sanctuary was established to provide a safe and protected environment for these endangered turtles during their nesting season.

Conservation Efforts: Over the years, various conservation efforts have been undertaken to protect the Olive Ridley turtles and their nesting habitat. These efforts include regulating tourism, monitoring turtle populations, and educating the public about the importance of sea turtle conservation.

Arribada Phenomenon: Gahirmatha is known for the "arribada" phenomenon, during which thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come ashore to nest simultaneously. This natural spectacle is a remarkable event that draws attention to the need for conservation.

Collaborative Conservation: Conservation efforts at Gahirmatha have involved collaboration between government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local communities. These partnerships have played a crucial role in protecting the sanctuary's biodiversity.

Challenges and Threats: The sanctuary has faced various challenges and threats, including illegal fishing practices, habitat destruction, and pollution. Efforts have been made to address these issues to ensure the continued protection of the Olive Ridley turtles and the marine ecosystem.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Area

The area of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is approximately 1,435 square kilometers. This substantial expanse along the northeastern coast of Odisha is crucial for the conservation of the Olive Ridley sea turtles and the protection of the marine ecosystem. 

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary River

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha, India, is bordered by several rivers along its coastline. The two main rivers that mark the northern and southern boundaries of the sanctuary are:

(1) Dhamra River:

The northern boundary of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is marked by the mouth of the Dhamra River. This river flows into the Bay of Bengal and forms the northern limit of the sanctuary.

(2) Brahmani River:

The southern boundary of the sanctuary is marked by the mouth of the Brahmani River. This river also flows into the Bay of Bengal and forms the southern limit of the sanctuary.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Flora

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, located along the coast of Odisha, India, features a rich and diverse range of flora. The flora of the sanctuary is influenced by its unique coastal and mangrove ecosystem. 

Here are some of the key flora species found in and around the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary:

  • Bija
  • Sal
  • Asan
  • Aanla
  • Dhaura
  • Amla
  • Bela
  • Dhaura
  • Jamu
  • Kadamba
  • Kanchan
  • Kangara
  • Karanja
  • Kasi
  • Kendu
  • Kurum
  • Kusum
  • Mahul
  • Mango
  • Mundi
  • Phasi
  • Sidha
  • Simul
  • Teak

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Fauna (Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Animals)

The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is home to a diverse range of fauna, both in the marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Here's a list of some of the notable fauna found in and around the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary:


  • Leopard
  • Wild Dog (Dhole) 
  • Fishing Cat
  • Irrawaddy Dolphin
  • Sloth Bear
  • Wild Boar
  • Barking Deer
  • Sambar Deer


  • Jungle Fowl
  • Lesser Crested Tern
  • Great Crested Tern
  • Sandpipers
  • Spot-billed Pelican
  • Painted Stork
  • Asian Openbill
  • Little Egret
  • Common Kingfisher
  • White-bellied Sea Eagle
  • Brahminy Kite
  • Rose-ringed Parakeet
  • Grey Heron
  • Red-vented Bulbul
  • Jungle Babbler
  • Common Myna


  • Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Crocodile

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary UPSC Questions

Q. Where is Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary located?/In which district is Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary?

A. The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is located in the Kendrapara district of Odisha, India. 

Q. Is Gahirmatha a Ramsar site?

A. The Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary, which includes the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, was not listed as a Ramsar site. Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention, and while the area is ecologically significant and home to various wetland habitats, it may not have been designated as a Ramsar site at that time.

Q. What is Gahirmatha Sanctuary famous for?

A. The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, located in Odisha, India, is primarily famous for being one of the most significant nesting sites in the world for the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). Here's what Gahirmatha Sanctuary is famous for:

(i) Olive Ridley Sea Turtles: Gahirmatha Sanctuary is renowned for the mass nesting events of Olive Ridley sea turtles. These turtles undertake synchronized nesting, known as "arribadas," during which thousands to millions of female Olive Ridleys come ashore to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of Gahirmatha.

(ii) Largest Nesting Beach: It is home to the world's largest nesting beach for Olive Ridley sea turtles. The sheer number of turtles that visit Gahirmatha for nesting each year is a remarkable natural spectacle and one of the sanctuary's primary claims to fame.

(iii) Conservation Efforts: The sanctuary is famous for its efforts to protect and conserve the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. Conservationists, government agencies, and local communities work together to ensure the safety of the nesting turtles and their eggs.

(iv) Unique Ecosystem: Gahirmatha Sanctuary is situated within the Bhitarkanika Mangroves, which is a unique and ecologically significant ecosystem known for its rich biodiversity, including a variety of plant and animal species.

(v) Research and Education: The sanctuary also serves as a hub for scientific research related to sea turtles and marine ecology. It is an educational and research hotspot for scientists and students interested in marine biology and conservation.

(vi) Tourist Attraction: While primarily a conservation area, Gahirmatha attracts tourists and nature enthusiasts who come to witness the incredible phenomenon of Olive Ridley turtle nesting. However, tourism is typically regulated to minimize disturbances to the turtles.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

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