World Turtle Day – May 23

World Turtle Day – May 23

Every year on May 23rd, World Turtle Day is celebrated all over the world. The aim of this day is to raise awareness about turtles and tortoises, increase knowledge and appreciation for them, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive. All seven sea turtle species on the planet are endangered, and the olive ridley turtle is one of them.

Sea Turtle Protection is one of the many initiatives by VSPCA to protect the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles which conducts unique nesting rituals on Vizag’s shores. Due to the rapid coastal development and increasing pollution on the beaches, it is getting more and more difficult for the sea turtles to find a proper place to nest and lay their eggs. It is very clear that if proper measures are not taken, the sea turtles might become extinct in the near future, or at least we might never see them on the Vizag’s coast again. VSPCA has been carrying out sea turtle conservation along the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Visakhapatnam for the past 25 years in collaboration with the fishing community hence ensuring the protection of the habitat.

Few of the major threats faced by sea turtle conservancy are:

  1. The first threat is the loss of nesting habitat, which happens as a result of human activity like developing buildings along the coast (coastal development), hosting public events on the beaches in the nesting areas, etc.
  2. The second major factor is commercial fishing which often results in accidental capturing of turtles and other animals often referred to as ‘bycatch’.
  3. The third one is ocean pollution & ocean acidification.
  4. Bright lights near the coast and the sea-level rise are also threats to the sea turtle population. A number of islands also serve as important nesting grounds but due to sea-level rise, they could disappear resulting in loss of nesting habitat of sea turtle populations.

Few facts about Olive Ridley sea turtles:

  • Common name: Olive Ridley (named after its olive green colored shell)
  • Scientific name: Lepidochelys Olivacea
  • Description:
    • Head is quite small.
    • Carapace is bony without ridges and has large scutes (scales).
    • Carapace has six or more lateral scutes and is nearly circular and smooth. Its body is deeper than the very similar Kemps Ridley sea turtle.
    • Both the front and rear flippers have 1 or 2 visible claws. There is sometimes an extra claw on the front flippers.
    • Juveniles are charcoal grey in color, while adults are dark grey-green. Hatchlings are black when wet with greenish sides.
  • Size: Adults measure 2 to 2.5 feet (62 – 70 cm) in carapace length.
  • Weight: Adults weigh between 77 and 100 pounds ( 35-45 kgs).
  • Diet: Have powerful jaws that allow for an omnivore diet of crustaceans (such as shrimp and crabs), mollusks, tunicates, fish, crab, and shrimps.
  • Habitat: Generally found in coastal bays and estuaries, but can be very oceanic over some parts of its range. They typically forage offshore in surface waters or dive to depths of 500 feet (150m) to feed on bottom-dwelling crustaceans.
  • Nesting: Nest every year in mass synchronized nestings called arribadas (Spanish for ‘arrival)’. Only the Kemps Ridley also nests this way. Nests 2 times each season.
    • The average clutch size is over 110 eggs which require 52-58 days of the incubation period.
  • Range: The Olive Ridley inhabits tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.

Our first scientific article on the sea turtle conservation program was recently published as a partner city feature in the Biophilic Cities Journal, representing the city of Visakhapatnam, India.

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