Olive Ridley Turtles

Olive Ridley Turtles are the smallest sea turtles of all in India. Recently, they have been in the news as the mass nesting of millions of these turtles has been missing in 2021 near the Rushikulya river mouth in the Ganjam district of Odisha.

Often UPSC asks questions about the species in the news in prelims examination.

Keeping that in mind, this article has provided relevant facts about Olive Ridley Turtles which can be useful for the IAS Exam.

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Facts about Olive Ridley Turtles for UPSC

Where are Olive Ridley Turtles Found? Warm Waters of Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean
What is Arribada in relation to Olive Ridley Turtles? The unique mass nesting of Olive Ridley Turtles (female turtles assemble on the same beach to lay eggs) is called Arribada
What is Olive Ridley Turtles’ Status in IUCN Red List? Vulnerable

Get IUCN Red List Data in the linked article.

Are males and females of Olive RidleyTurtles the same in size? Yes, the males and females olive ridley turtles grow the same in size
What do Olive Ridley Turtles eat? They are carnivorous species, and they eat mainly jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs and a variety of fish and their eggs
Largest Mass Nesting Site of Olive Ridley Turtles Odisha Coast

Three river mouths where the turtles come together for mass nesting:

  • Dhamra River
  • Rushikulya River
  • Devi River

Daily News

Olive Ridley Turtle Mass Nesting in India

In India, Gahirmatha beach off the Bay of Bengal coast in Kendrapara district is acclaimed as the world’s largest nesting ground of these turtles.

According to the Indian Coast Guard, the following points are to be noted about the smallest sea turtles – Olive Ridley:

  1. First Mass Nesting of these turtles was discovered in 1974. It was Gahirmatha rookery close to the mouth of Brahmani-Baitarani (Dhamra) River.
  2. A second mass nesting was discovered in 1981 at the Devi River mouth.
  3. The third mass nesting area was discovered at the Rushikulya river mouth in 1994.
  4. The turtles come together at the Odisha Coast in November and December annually and stay up to April and March for nesting.
  5. 100 to 140 eggs are laid by the adult female turtle at a time.

Other relevant facts about these turtles are:

  1. The Odisha Coast has the right kind of nesting beaches around river mouths. The deltaic areas with sand pits in this coast is a suitable nesting site for turtles as they like it.
  2. Olive Ridley seeks a specific latitude for nesting. A beach located at a latitude of around 25 degrees is what these turtles seek.
  3. The olive ridley’s sense of magnetic field is responsible for their set behaviour. Environmental cues like sea currents, the sun’s position, surface winds, temperature, seasons and moon are taken into account by the turtles.
  4. After hatching, adult turtles usually leave their eggs and swim away, and these hatchlings use these environmental cues only to get to foraging grounds.
About Gahirmatha Beach:

  • It is in the Kendrapara district of Odisha.
  • There are 3 protected areas that represent the Gahirmatha wetland:
    • Bhitarkanika National Park
    • Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

About Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • It is located in the estuarial region of Brahmani-Baitarani, in the northeastern part of the Kendrapara district of Odisha.
  • It has the second largest floral diversity in the world.

Olive Ridley Conservation in India

Olive Ridleys in India are found from the Gujarat coast to the Andamans and Lakshadweep to Odisha and Bengal. These turtles make their journey from Australia to India of around 9000 km.

Read about India’s Operation Olivia concerning Olive Ridley Turtles in the linked article.

Threats to Olive Ridleys:

The state government of Odisha has listed down the following threats to the Olive Ridley Turtles:

  • Loss or modification of the nesting beaches due to Casuarina plantation
  • Fishing by gill nets; and development of fishing bases at the potential nesting sites and breeding areas
  • Strong illumination around nesting beaches greatly disorients the adult turtles as well as the hatchlings
  • Large scale vessel movement in congregation zones severely disturb mating and breeding
  • Nests and eggs are destroyed by predators like dogs, jackals, hyenas, etc., and by beach erosion.

These sea turtles have been given legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

The Olive Ridley Turtles are also protected by CITES under Appendix 1.

They are also listed in the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), also called Bonn Convention.

Odisha Government Initiatives

In Odisha, the population that congregates yearly represents about 50% of the total world population of Olive Ridleys and about 90% of the Indian population of sea turtles.

To protect the nesting and breeding habitat of Olive Ridley Turtles, the waters around Bhitarkanika were declared as Gahirmatha (Marine) Wildlife Sanctuary in September 1997.

Odisha Marine Fisheries Regulation Act (OMFRA) 1982 and Odisha Marine Fisheries Regulation Rules, 1983 have declared the coastal waters off Devi and Rushikulya rookery as a no-fishing zone during the sea turtle breeding season. Indian Coast Guard has been authorized to enforce the provisions of these acts.

Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs)

These are 2-D net inserts that have large escape openings for turtles. These are compulsory to be used by the trawlers while shrimp fishing.

UPSC Preparation:

Environment & Ecology Questions of IAS Mains GS 3 Topic Wise GS 3 Questions of UPSC Mains
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