Olive Ridley sea turtles

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    31st Mar, 2020

Around 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles have come ashore for mass nesting at the six-kilometre-long Rushikulya beach of Odisha’s Ganjam district.

Context

Around 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles have come ashore for mass nesting at the six-kilometre-long Rushikulya beach of Odisha’s Ganjam district.

About

  • The Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles, growing up to 70 cm and weighing 45 kg, on average. 
  • The Olive ridley turtles are globally distributed in the tropical regions of the South Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
  • Olive ridley turtles reach sexual maturity at approximately 15 years of age, an early age compared to other sea turtles.
  • Many females nest every year, some twice a season, laying clutches of approximately 100-110 eggs, which take from 45 to 65 days to hatch.
  • The nesting female leaves track marks that are 70-80 cm wide and have asymmetrical forelimb marks. Tail drag marks are absent.
  • Olive ridley turtles use three different strategies to nest:
    • Arribadas
    • solitary nests
    • mixed strategy
  • An arribada is a mass-nesting event when thousands of turtles come ashore at the same time to lay eggs on the same

The mass testing:

  • Orissa State, in the north east of India, hosts one of the world's major annual mass-nesting events of marine turtles. 
  • The mass nesting, known by the Spanish term arribada, started at Rushikulya on March 20, 2020. The turtles came ashore in groups of 5,000-10,000 each.
  • Around 3.7 lakh Olive Ridleys have nested at Rushikulya rookery so far this year while 4.2 lakh turned up at Gahirmatha. The total number of turtles that have nested at these rookeries so far is a little over 7.9 lakh.
  • It is estimated that around six crore eggs will be laid this year.
  • Restrictions in place for the COVID-19threat is saving lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles from possible intrusion by humans, especially tourists, while they are continuing mass nesting at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery.
  • The animals had skipped Rushikulya last year, something that had baffled turtle researchers. Their absence was previously noted in 2002, 2007 and 2016 too.
  • Around 300,000 turtles laid eggs in another rookery at Gahiramatha marine sanctuary in Kendrapara district recently. 

Major threats:

  • This incredible nesting event is threatened by a multitude of dangers, including: 
    • bycatchin mechanised shrimp trawlers off the coast in the nesting season
    • unregulated development of the coast
    • beach erosion
    • predation of the eggs by dogs and foxes

With mass nesting expected to continue for a few more days, the number may rise further.Restrictions imposed as part of COVID-19 lockdown has saved the rookeries from human intrusion this year leading to undisturbed nesting of the turtles.

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