Within the past thirty years the Olive Ridley Turtle has experienced population loss due to hunting at nesting sites for the female's skin and meat. The Olive Ridley Turtle is still the most abundant of all sea turtles, yet it nests at only five beaches in the world. Governments are in the process of protecting these nesting sites and populations. The United States has passed a law requiring that all shrimp sold in the United States must be harvested by companies with "Turtle Excluder Devices" that allow sea turtles to safely escape capture in shrimping nets.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
As with other large sea turtles, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is considered somewhat of a pest for commercial fishermen for they often find these turtles caught in their nets.
Since turtle egg harvesting became legal on the Playa Ostional in Costa Rica in 1987, local villagers have been able to sell nearly 3 million eggs collected from the beaches each season. The villagers can legally harvest only eggs laid during the first 36 hours of a nesting period since any turtles nesting after this period would destroy them. Approximately 27 million eggs are left unharvested and are protected from predators such as snakes and birds by the villagers.
The Olive Ridley is a chiefly carnivorous species feeding on invertebrates and protochordates such as jellyfish, snails, shrimp and crabs. The Olive Ridley Turtle has a tendency to eat a wide variety of foods which has lead to many attempts on its behalf to ingest trash such as plastic bags and Styrofoam. Surprisingly, in captivity, this species has been observed to be cannibalistic. Most feeding takes place in shallow, soft-bottomed waters. The Olive Ridley Turtle has also been known to principally feed on algae in areas devoid of other food sources.
The Olive Ridley Turtle has a large range within the tropical and subtropical regions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as the Southern Atlantic Ocean. They generally tend to stay within the latitudes of 40° North and 40° South. Around North America it can be found in the waters of the Caribbean Sea and along the Gulf of California. The largest nesting beach for the Olive Ridley Turtle is at the Bhitar Kanika Wildlife Sanctuary on the Bay of Bengal located in Orissa, India.
Biogeographic Regions: indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )
The Olive Ridley Turtle spends most of its time within 15 km of shore, preferring shallow seas for is feeding and sunbathing. However this species is observed in the open ocean as well.
Aquatic Biomes: coastal
The Olive Ridley Turtle is a large sea turtle that can weigh as much as 45 kg (100 lbs) and have a length of up to 75 cm (30 in). The skin of the turtle is olive gray and the distinguishing feature between male and female turtles is that the male's tail extends past the carapace while the female's does not. The relatively thin shell compared to other turtles is somewhat heart-shaped and is olive in color. Each of the four limbs has two claws.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
While the exact age at which reproduction occurs is not known, females usually reach a length of 60 cm before becoming reproductively active. Mating usually occurs on beaches during the spring and early summer in North America and is not monogamous. Male sperm is stored within the female for use throughout the entire breeding season. Mating takes place just offshore of the breeding beaches. Females choose to return to their beach of birth and will do this by remembering the smell of the beach through enhanced chemosensors. Nesting takes place during the night with the females riding in on the high tide and usually coincides with the first or last quarter of the moon. The Olive Ridley turtle is well known for its mass nesting, with 300 or more females at a time coming ashore. Situating themselves approximately 50 m from the sea, females will dig a nest 30-55 cm deep, depositing on average 107 eggs, and then return to the sea. This entire process takes the female turtles less then an hour. Since females store sperm in their bodies for later use, a single female can nest multiple months in a row. The eggs resemble white ping-pong balls and hatch within 45-51 days depending on incubation temperatures, which will also determine the sex of the turtle. The turtles face varying degrees of success in each of the clutches that are laid in large groups to increase their success of surviving.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)