Here’s the most thrilling news! Olive Ridley turtles have been spotted on Versova beach in Mumbai for the first time in 20 years! 

What are these wonderful creatures? The Olive Ridley are sea turtles. Sea turtles belong to a family of ancient reptiles and date back to over 200 million years.  They are the smallest of the seven sea turtles in the world and are found in the waters of the Pacific, Southern Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Photo Credit: seaworld.org

Nesting:  Primary nesting spots for Olive Ridleys are Costa Rica, Mexico and India.  In India, they are mostly spotted on the eastern coast on the beaches of Odisha and Chennai where there are huge nesting grounds. When nesting is over, they typically migrate to the waters around Sri Lanka.

How do they choose a beach to go to? Turtles mate at sea. When the mum turtle is ready to lay her eggs, she returns to the very same beach where she herself hatched at as a baby – that’s 10 years later!

What happens in the nesting? Usually it’s a mass nesting where hundreds of mum turtles crawl up the beach at night. This is called arribada, which in Spanish meaning “the arrival”.  Once the female lays her eggs she returns to the sea.

The babies hatch after about 45-60 days. They are attracted to the slight glow of the sea, which guides them to the water.  They are independent from the time they hatch, and navigate many dangers to stay safe.  Only one in about 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. That’s tough!

Dangers and threats:  Sea turtles face the great danger of predators, fishing, poaching, and pollution. Although Olive Ridleys can hold their breath underwater for about an hour, they cannot breathe underwater. So once they are caught in a net they are bound to die.

Olive Ridley turtles have not been seen at Versova beach for 20 years. After this long period of time, some 80 hatchlings were suddenly seen this week, waddling their way to the sea!

How did that happen? In the past few years, hard working volunteers have cleaned out 13 million kg of plastic and other garbage from a massive cleanup operation on Versova beach. Their efforts are being paid off by this fantastic return of these fascinating creatures.

Frightening Fact:  Sea turtles are truly unique – rather than the sex of hatchlings being determined by the chromosomes, the sex of the animal is determined by the temperatures of the sand the eggs are incubated in.

  • Optimum temperature: both male and female turtles are produced
  • Cool sand: more males
  • Warm sand: more females

With global warming, there is a concern that there will be more females born and without enough males, it will be difficult for sea turtles to breed.

Written by: Purnima Thacker, a keen art admirer, nature enthusiast, intellectual property lawyer and mum to a curious 8 year old.

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