When the turtles come ashore
She was sweet 17, profoundly pregnant; and yet floated effortlessly, adrift in the warm waters off the east coast of India. The Olive Ridley sea turtle was waiting for darkness to envelope her. She was pregnant for the first time and would breed many more times in her life span of 100 years. Stealth was not her intention as she waited 700 yards from the sandy beach at the mouth of the Rushikulya in Orissa. A few yards away, another female turtle joined her, then a third, followed by a dozen, then hundreds and thousands. They gathered as if for a colossal hen party, instinctively following an uncanny ritual that happens in the dead of the night.
All the expectant mother turtles slowly crawl towards the virgin beach.Large
groups of turtles gather off the seashore and, in a short span of a few
nights, they invade the beaches in regular intervals to lay eggs in
The nesting density is so high that previously laid eggs are unwittingly dug up by other turtles to lay their own eggs! Each clutch has at least 70-100 ping-pong sized white eggs stacked in a tubular pit excavated in the soft sand.
Being creatures of the sea, turtles are not built to crawl on land as they never ever venture out of the deep waters except during the nesting season. There are numerous theories on what triggers an Arribada(The Arribada means arrival of the Olive Ridley turtles to lay their eggs) including deep-sea currents, solar-lunar cycles and physiological triggers. Scientists are yet to determine the authentic cues. Intriguingly not all female Ridleys nest during an Arribada; some prefer to nest on their own. While other turtles have been documented nesting in small groups, no other sea turtles have been observed nesting in such massive numbers. This year a record 254,000 female turtles came ashore to drop their progeny packaged in eggs.
Both male and female Ridleys leave their feeding grounds in the vast oceans and migrate to the coast of Orissa to breed and brood. Availability of adequate sea food and secure sea beaches are vital for their survival.
Threats to the turtle
The principal cause of the Olive Ridley's dramatic decline is the collection
of eggs and killing of adults on nesting beaches. In the 1970s and the
1980s, trade in turtle meat increased and it is estimated that at least
50,000 turtles were shipped to Kolkata each nesting season. Trains and
trucks were filled with live turtles destined to be served as a delicacy in
homes and restaurants. People and pollution have collectively contributed to
Expansion of shrimp and tuna trawling has also resulted in numerous turtle deaths.In India, conservation efforts after the 1980s have stabilised the numbers as Olive Ridleys are protected by international treaties as well as national laws.
Arribada facts Sixty years ago, the first Arribada was discovered by an amateur who recorded on film thousands of Ridley turtles nesting on a remote beach in Mexico. Turtle experts say that the Arribada occurs only on select beaches worldwide in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. In the Indian region, Arribada transpires on three beaches along the coast of Orissa. Solitary nesting occurs extensively throughout this species range and has been documented in 40 countries worldwide.