About Olive Ridley Turtle
The Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps Ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
- An initiative driven by fishing communities in Odisha has not only given the Olive Ridley turtles a new lease of life, but has also halted the construction of ports in the nesting areas.
- The turtle nesting at Astaranga, Puri is significant as turtle deaths have occurred with alarming regularity in Odisha.
- Though the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary has traditionally been the most preferred nesting site for turtles, the nesting at Astaranga has opened new vistas to secure Olive Ridley numbers.
- The record nesting of turtle eggs at Astaranga is due to the efforts of Green Light Rural Association (GLRA), a non-profit based in Astaranga, which has also managed to stall a state government move to acquire land for proposed ports in the fragile nesting area.
The Green Light Rural Association (GLRA) efforts
- GLRA’s activities are focused in the region around the mouth of the river Devi, which is a distributary of the Mahanadi.
- 1994: they undertook a rigorous seven-month-long tour to various nesting sites to monitor turtle nesting and documented the various factors that were leading to turtle deaths.
- 2002: GLRA started a project called “Turtle Friends” to identify strategic sites and fishing communities along the coastline.
- 2007: GLRA started a programme to control the stray dog population in the Devi mass nesting area with the help of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad and the Odisha government’s department of animal husbandry, as stray dogs often consume turtle eggs from the nesting sites.
- 2009-10: GLRA built an artificial reef with the help of fishing communities and funding support from the Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium. This artificial reef of concrete blocks stopped net fishing and helped create new fishing areas.
- GLRA apprised forest officials of a new phenomenon affecting turtles visiting the area. Fisher folk used massive artificial illumination for shrimp seedling harvesting. The zero mesh nets also prevented turtles from climbing ashore for nesting. Strong illumination drove away the turtles since they are highly sensitive to light.
GLRA members are also worried about the ports being planned along Odisha’s coastline. Conservationists say that even minor ports, such as the proposed Astaranga Port, which was announced by the state government in 2010, could endanger turtle nesting.