Olive Ridley sea turtles use a wide range of habitats (sandy beaches, coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves etc.), thus playing a critical role for the conservation of the oceans’ ecosystems and diversity. Many of these habitats face mounting threats today. Sea turtles are also an important part of the traditional culture of many coastal indigenous peoples.
The major threats to these species in Odisha are destruction of nesting habitat though coastal development, seashore pollution by coastal inhabitants, incidental catch by commercial fishermen in shrimp trawls and gillnets, high predation by feral animals, bright illuminating light during hatching which disorients young hatchlings.
Over the years, APOWA (Action for Protection of Wild Animals) has been working for the conservation of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles and their habitat along the Odisha coast. With our sustained campaign and commitment, combined strongly with field protection, networking with fishermen communities and comprehensive innovative awareness campaigns, the result has been advantageous. Sea turtles are umbrella species: their protection as well as preservation of their habitat helps to protect a number of other species that depend on the same habitat.
In the first week of March, the spectacular mass-nesting of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles commenced at Gahirmatha and Rushikullya sea turtle rookery in Odisha. The sporadic nesting, which began one month earlier on unprotected adjacent beaches, went almost unnoticed. The endangered species which comes en-masse to these places, rarely turns up in such large numbers anywhere else on the planet.
In recent years, regular ‘arribada’ beaches have fortunately received a lot of attention and protection, however sporadic nesting sites are overlooked leaving the eggs and hatchlings susceptible to many dangers.
APOWA is focusing on non-protected areas and on protecting nesting turtles there, as the majority of the nests get predated by feral animals and people. The sporadic nesting contributes equally to that of mass nesting of turtles; hence it is highly necessary that sporadic nests are protected.