By Srishti Manna,(Second Prize Winner at the Nature's Eye Blog Writing Contest)
Hi! I saw you wandering nearby looking a little lost, so I thought maybe you would like a little company.
Oh boy! If only my parents were around, they’d be thrilled to meet you!
Would you like to stay and talk? I promise I don’t bite!
I am Olley, an Olive Ridley sea turtle of the Indian Ocean.
Olley and his Ridleys
I recently turned a few months old. After Kemps sea turtles and my extended relatives in the Pacific and
Atlantic Oceans, we will remain the smallest in the family (measuring less than 28 inches in length).
How is our gender decided? If the temperature had been warm while I was an egg, I would be a female!
Shall I tell you a secret though? I prefer being a male. The recent warming is causing way too many
turtles to become females.
The females are pretty fascinating though! They can breed twice in a year because they can store
sperms. Generally, they mate and nest non-monogamously during winter and spring months
respectively on nesting beaches (where they were born). During mass nesting, hundreds of females
swim to these beaches on high tide laying their eggs in self dug 30-55 cm deep pits during the day. Some females may nest alone.
Not all of the eggs are able to successfully hatch though, it depends on multiple conditions including temperature and lurking egg-eating predators.
I remember when we had hatched, it was instinctive to just follow the moonlight guiding us towards the
ocean! This can also be problematic.
Owing to the people put-up signs, sometimes baby turtles take a wrong route and do not reach the
ocean. However, people have also helped us towards the ocean using a flashlight many times. If we
don’t reach the water, we eventually pass away. It’s scary to imagine to such a scenario.
What is life like within the ocean? We like to feed in the morning and sunbathe on the surface of the
ocean during the afternoons. If there is a predator nearby, an Olive Ridley would rather swim away or
dive into deeper waters than face confrontation.
When I grow older, you could put metal tags or tracking chips on me to know more about my lifestyle.
Only if it isn’t uncomfortable, I do like being free...
Ohh look, that’s a plankton!
It’s going to be a long day foraging for small plants and animals while trying not to sway away from
these strong ocean currents, so please don’t mind if I feast.
When I become an adult, I will be able to eat anything I want exploring these waters– lobsters, algae,
jellyfish, fish, shrimps, prawns, etc!
I was recently warned by an adult to steer clear of fishing times. Our species, like many others, tend to get caught in nets and die. I wish the fishermen used more turtle excluder devices in their commercial nets, so that we can get out.
We are also threatened by activities when our eggs are destroyed or we are harvested for meat and skin or just taken captive for leisure.
I understand Olive Ridleys are vulnerable to extinction owing to the multiple threats, but please do not keep my species in captivity. Our behavior can change in isolation, possibly turning us cannibalistic.
Why are my species called Olive Ridleys? We get our name from our olive-colored heart shape shells as adults. But for a while, my shell will be staying charcoal grey with tinges of green at the sides.
Ahh, I guess it’s getting late. I really enjoyed talking to you and I hope I didn’t bore you.
Now that you know more about me, would you like to keep coming back?
In case you do, ask around for me- Olley, Lepidochelys olivacea (as named by your kind).
- Srishti Manna (email@example.com)