English Name:Olive ridley sea turtle
Scientific Name :Lepidochelys olivacea
Family : Chelonia
Tamil Name : Kadal Aamai
Description: The adults are olive brown above and yellowish below. There are two shells covering the body. The shell on top is called the carapace while that is below is called plastron. Carapace has scutes that help in identification of the species. In the olive ridley coastal scutes are more than five.
Distribution and status: The Ridley is distributed in the tropics of Indo pacific and East Atlantic and is the commonest of all the sea turtles found in India.
Habitats: Adults spend their life time in the oceans except during the breeding season when they travel several kilometers to reach their nesting grounds.
Habits: It is believed hatchling return back to the same beach where they were born to complete the life cycle. Every year in Gahirmatha, Orissa close to 5 lakh turtles come enmasse on the beach to lay eggs. This phenomenon is called `Arribada’ which in Spanish means `arrival’. This synchronized nesting happens in Gahirmatha every year and could be considered a national treasure: Due to the fact that they are air breathing reptiles when they get caught in fishing nets and they drown. These dead turtles get washed ashore as carcasses.
Food: It is omnivores in feeding habits.
Life cycle: Breeding takes place after the monsoon months when they arrive after migration from their feeding grounds. Mating takes place offshore and males never come ashore. It normally nests at night but diurnal nesting has also been reported. The nesting female digs a small body pit not so elaborate a pit as in green turtle and lays close to 70-150 eggs. They are round, white in color and are the size of table tennis ball. There is a record of a habit of nesting by a Tamil Poetess in 4th Century AD which reports covering the nest with Ipomea pescapre by a nesting female turtle.
Role in the environment: There is a unique mass nesting in Orissa where more than 4 lakh turtles come ashore to nest in a period of 4 weeks. These are sometimes referred to as the `arribada’ a Spanish word, a term originally used to describe mass gatherings along the Mexican coast.
Photo source : Dr.J. Subramanean