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Odisha beach hosts record turtle nesting - IAS Academy in Coimbatore

Millions of olive ridleys make it to sea after Odisha beach hosts record turtle nesting

  1. Rushikulya Beach in Ganjam district (Odisha) saw the highest-ever congregation of olive ridley turtles from February 23 to March 3, 2023.
  2. The beach hosted around 6.37 lakh turtles.
  3. An olive ridley turtle usually lays 100-150 eggs in a cavity created by them on the beach.
  4. They use their front flippers to scoop out sand for hours and create a void. They lay their eggs in one go and cover them with sand.
  5. The turtles return to the sea before sunrise. The eggs hatch after 40 to 60 days.
  6. The baby turtles emerge from their eggs and march toward the Bay of Bengal.

About Olive Ridley Turtles:

  1. The olive ridley gets its name from the olive green colour of its heart-shaped shell.
  2. The species is among the smallest of the world’s sea turtles and is found primarily in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans.
  3. They are carnivores, and feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs and a variety of fish and their eggs.
  4. These turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean, and migrate thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.

Population in the Indian Ocean:

  1. In the Indian Ocean, three arribada beaches occur in Odisha, India (Gahirmatha, Devi River mouth, and Rushikulya) with an estimated +100,000 nests per year.
  2. ‘Arribada’ is a term used for olive ridley turtles and kemps ridley turtles wherein thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  3. Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs.
  4. After about 45-65 days, the eggs begin to hatch, and these beaches are swamped with crawling Olive-ridley turtle babies, making their first trek towards the vast ocean.
  5. It is estimated that approximately 1 hatchling survives to reach adulthood for every 1000 hatchlings that enter the sea waters.
  6. The coast of Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for the olive-ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.

Threats to Existence:

  1. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there has been between a 30 to 50 percent reduction in global population size.
  2. Although some nesting populations have increased in the past few years or are currently stable, the overall reduction in some populations is greater than the overall increase in others.
  3. The number of Olive ridleys are greatly reduced from historical estimates (for example, 10 million olive ridleys in the Pacific Ocean), due to overexploitation for turtle meat and eggs.
  4. Though international trade in these turtles and their products is banned under CITES Appendix I, they are still extensively poached for their meat, shell and leather, and their eggs.
  5. Olive-ridleys face serious threats across their migratory route, habitat and nesting beaches, due to human activities such as – Turtle unfriendly fishing practices, Development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and Tourist centres.
  6. The most severe threat they face is the accidental killing of adult turtles through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches.

Conservation Measures:

  1. To reduce accidental killing in India, the Odisha government has made it mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), a net specially designed with an exit cover which allows the turtles to escape while retaining the catch.

Operation Olivia

  1. Every year, the Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia”, initiated in the early 1980s, helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December.

Metal Tags

  1. Since 2021, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in collaboration with Wildlife Wing of Odisha’s Forest department started tagging olive ridley turtles with the help of metal tags.
  2. These are non-corrosive metal tags which enable scientists to chart the movements of olive ridleys and also know the areas they visit in order to protect the species and their habitats.

Legal Protection

  1. IUCN Status – Vulnerable
  2. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – Schedule I
  3. CITES – Appendix I