Monday, February 6, 2012

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is one of the smaller Sea Turtles; they have a carapace length of around 2ft. They also have the distinction of being the most abundant Sea Turtle on the planet, with about 800,000 females coming ashore to nest annually.

Lepidochelys olivacea
Olive Ridleys, named for their olive coloration, have a very large distribution and can be found in tropical waters around the world. They are a migratory pelagic Turtle, but they also can be spotted in coastal regions as well.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles exhibit one of the most interesting nesting habits in the world. Once or twice a year, in waves triggered by some unknown event (Lunar Cycles? Wind? No one knows for sure), thousands of female Turtles come ashore in events called Arribadas. Each turtle lays around 100 eggs, and sometimes there are so many Turtles that they actually dig up previously laid nests in order to deposit their offpspring! One beach in India saw 200,000 females at a single event!

Despite the large population number, Olive Ridley Sea Turtles are considered to be Vulnerable by the IUCN. This is because the selected survey sites have shown a population decline over the last 2-3 generations. The Marine Turtle Specialist Group actually reports a 50% decline since the 1960s. The Olive Ridleys are at risk due to hunting, egg harvesting, bycatch, and habitat degradation. So while they are the most abundant of the Sea Turtles, they are also one of the most exploited. The Turtles are currently protected by numerous agreements and treaties, including CITES I.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Tropical waters worldwide
Size : Carapace Length up to 28in (70cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Testudines
Family : Cheloniidae -- Genus : Lepidochelys -- Species : L. olivacea

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