Saturday 24 March 2018

Lepidochelys olivacea: Olive Ridley Turtles colonise Mumbai beach.

Around eighty hatchling Olive Ridley Turtles, Lepidochelys olivacea, were observed crawling down Versova Beach in Mumbai on Thursday 22 March 2018, prompting a search by volunteers who found a nest site on Friday 23 March. The coast of Maharashtra State, India, is thought to provide nesting sites for about 600 Olive Ridleys, but they are not usually found on Mumbai's heavily polluted beaches. However Versova Beach has been the subject of a cleanup campaign by a the Versova Residents Volunteers, a community-led environmental group which has removed about 13 million kg of plastic and other materials since 2015. The last report of a Turtle nest in Mumbai was over 20 years ago, though this was not photographed or observed by scientists and is generally regarded as apocryphal. An injured Olive Ridley was found on Juhu Beach in Mumbai, and treated by a local vet, but it is not thought that this Turtle was nesting.

Hatchling Olive Ridley Turtles on Versova Beach, Mumbai, on 22 March 2018. Afroz Shah/Versova Residents Volunteers.

Olive Ridleys are the smallest, and most abundant, species of Sea Turtles, though they are still considered to be Vulnerable under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, due to the threat posed to their breeding grounds by Human activity, and the (now illegal) trade in meat, eggs and leather from these Turtles. The species is slow to colonise new nesting areas, as females usually return to the beaches where they were born to lay eggs. In India the species has been the subject of a deliberate re-introduction scheme in Orissa Stste, but the colonisation of a beach in Mumbai is both unexpected and welcomed by environmentalists.

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