Name: Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
Average Weight: 70 - 100 pounds
Average Size: 2 - 2.5 feet
Lifespan in the Wild: 50 - 60 years
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Population: Estimated 800,000 nesting females (According to Conserve Turtles)
General Information: The olive ridley sea turtle is closely related to Kemp's ridley sea turtles. They get their name from their greenish coloured skin. These, along with Kemp's ridley sea turtles, are the smallest of all the sea turtle species. Olive ridley turtles have a slightly smaller head and shell compared to their relative Kemp's ridley turtle.
Similarly to their relatives, Kemp's Ridley Turtles, olive ridley sea turtles enjoy snacking on jellyfish, along with crabs and shrimp. They are primarily carnivores but will, on occasion, eat seaweed and algae.
Nesting Behaviours & Reproduction:
These sea turtles prefer their own company, opting to spend most of their lives out in the open ocean by themselves. Females will always return to the beaches that they hatched on, migrating hundreds, sometimes even thousands of miles.
Once a year these turtles come together for "arribada", mass nocturnal nesting behaviours. The nesting season is typically between June and December. The females can lay between 1 and 3 clutches of eggs in a season, some prefer to nest on their own, whilst others will crawl onto the beach together, sometime in the thousands, and lay their eggs in synchronicity. They will lay between 50 and 200 eggs in each nest before returning to the ocean.
The eggs will incubate for about 55 days before the hatchlings will emerge. The temperature has an impact on the sex of the hatchlings, if the weather is warmer then more females will hatch, where as cooler temperatures will produce more males. Despite the mass amount of hatchlings that emerge on the beach very few actually survive into adulthood as they are excellent targets for larger predators such as crabs, snakes and birds.
Habitat & Range:
Typically they can be found in the tropical waters in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. As we have already mentioned they are highly migratory and will travel hundreds and thousands of miles between foraging locations and their nesting beaches.
Though they do not nest on beaches in the United States they do use coastal waters along the southwest for feeding.
Threats To The Species:
The olive ridley sea turtles is considered one of the most abundant sea turtles in the ocean, but their numbers are declining, especially the population in the western Atlantic.
Hunted for Meat, Skin & Eggs:
Tragically olive ridley sea turtles are at risk from hunting. Their eggs are harvested on the nesting beaches and the mother sea turtles are caught and slaughtered for their meat and their skin.
It is thought that the eggs are an aphrodisiac in Central and South America. The largest seizure of illegally harvested olive ridley eggs was made in Mexico City in October 1996 when over 500,000 eggs were taken from one beach.
Adults are killed for their meat and their skin, the meat is used for food and their skin made into leather. In the 1960s it was estimated that over 1 million olive ridley turtles were killed annually. Thankfully legal quotas were introduced to reduce this mass slaughter, though illegal enterprises do still exist.
Many sea turtle species they face the risk of bycatch in fishing nets. WWF estimated that hundreds of thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets, on longline hooks and in fishing gillnets annually.
There are turtle excluder devices available that can be used to help prevent sea turtles, such as hawksbill, avoid being victims of bycatch. Because sea turtles need to surface to breath, getting caught and trapped in fishing gear can often result in drowning.