Context: The Olive Ridleys turtles began mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery recently.  | 

More about the news:

  • Turtles are safe: Restrictions in place for the COVID-19 threat is saving lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles from possible intrusion by humans, especially tourists, while they are continuing mass nesting at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery.
  • According to the Forest Department’s enumeration, over 2,78,502 mother turtles have nested. 
  • Day-time nesting: The unusual phenomenon of day-time mass nesting took place at the coast. 

Poor nesting last year:

  • Cyclone’s aftermath: October 2018’s Cyclone Titli, and the floods that followed, left huge piles of waste over about 8 km of the Rushikulya coast, which had to be cleaned with excavators. 
  • It has been estimated that minute particles of the waste had remained, keeping the nesting Olive Ridleys away in 2019.

Reasons for mass nesting this year:

  • Proper maintenance of cleanliness and provision of protection to the turtles at sea since 2019, when the turtles mate, are major reasons for the large scale mass nesting of Olive Ridleys at Rushikulya this year. 

Rushikulya River

  • It covers the entire catchment area in the districts of Kandhamal and Ganjam district of Odisha. 
  • It originates from Rushikulya hills of the Eastern Ghats in Phulbani district.
  • The mouth of the river is Rushikuliya rookery coast, which is a breeding place for olive ridley turtles.
  • No fishing trawlers: Trawlers, speed boats and country boats are being used by the Forest Department to patrol the sea, in order to prevent fishing trawlers from plying along the coast. Trawlers did not cause any deaths of turtles as a result.
  • This year, the beach has received thorough cleaning at  regular cleaning long before mass nesting commenced. The Forest Department also set up 11 off-shore camps early this year to monitor the beach.


Olive Ridley (Scientific Name: Lepidochelys olivacea)

olive ridley turtleolive ridley

               Image source: Wikipedia

  • The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world. They gets name from its olive colored carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded
  • They inhabit warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
  • They are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs(synchronized nesting).
  • The turtles mate and breed in the winter season and are mostly carnivorous, feeding on such creatures as jellyfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp. They will occasionally eat algae and seaweed.
  • The species is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, Appendix 1 in CITES, and Schedule 1 in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Threats
    • Cyclones: Phailin in 2013, Hud-hud in 2014 and Titli in2018 have significantly contributed to a loss in the breeding grounds.
    • Poaching for their meat, shell and leather, and their eggs.
    • Development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and tourist centres.
    • Pet trading and accidental killing of adult turtles through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches.
    • Predators like feral dogs and pigs, ghost crabs, snakes etc.
    • Light pollution.
    • Ingestion of marine debris that causes perforation of the digestive system and exposure to chemicals and hence death.
  • Yanadi Tribals are involved in collection of eggs and releasing hatchlings, ensuring a safe breeding environment.
  • Operation Olivia: Olive Ridley Turtle protection program undertaken by Indian Coast Guard.
  • The nesting sites in India
    • Gahirmatha  beach (Odisha)
    • Beach of Rushikulya River(Odisha)
    • Astaranga coast(Odisha)
    • Devi River mouth(Odisha)
    • Hope Island of Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (Andra Pradesh)

Source: ResearchGate