For more than 100 million years these gentle creatures have roamed the oceans and nested at the edge of the sea.
Named for the pale green color of its heart-shaped carapace (upper shell), the olive ridley sea turtle inhabits tropical and temperate waters of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
Olive ridley turtles are best known for their spectacular synchronized mass nestings called arribadas, where females travel thousands of miles to return to the beach where they were born and lay their eggs.
Seeing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles nesting at one time is truly an exhilarating experience.
Exhausted from their oceanic travels, the females lug their 100-pound bodies out of the sea and across the sand, and then arduously dig a conical nest with their hind flippers.
At long last, they drop 80 to 100 ping-pong-sized eggs.
WILDCOAST is helping protect the most important beach on the planet for olive ridley sea turtles.
Along the 9.3 mile stretch of Morro Ayuta beach in Oaxaca, Mexico, more than 2.4 million sea turtles laid eggs during the 2018-2020 arribada seasons, and 17.8 million hatchlings were born.
This is exciting news for scientists and wildlife conservationists, especially since the olive ridley was on the verge of extinction back in the 1980s. Thankfully the Mexican government banned the killing, trading, and consumption of sea turtles in 1990, and WILDCOAST launched a wildly successful “Don’t eat sea turtle eggs” campaign in Mexico in 2005.
And while the olive ridley has been repopulating and moving toward recovery since then, other challenges still pose threats to this species like coastline development, poaching, and climate change.
To address these threats, WILDCOAST is working with the Mexican Turtle Center, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), and local communities to directly protect and monitor this critical sea turtle habitat along Morro Ayuta. In 2018, WILDCOAST and CONANP protected the 9.3 mile beach and nearby Barra de la Cruz, a leatherback nesting beach, through federal zone conservation concessions. Together with the Mexican Turtle Center, we monitor the beach—counting nesting turtles and eggs, hiding eggs from poachers, and measuring sand temperature.
To educate the local communities, WILDCOAST’s team produced the first Sea Turtle Conservation Guide for the Oaxaca coastline, and we have distributed educational materials on sea turtle conservation in the region’s indigenous language that has reached hundreds of local school children.
We are also combating a plague of beetles that eat the buried sea turtle eggs in the nests, in order to increase hatchling survival rates.
And training local communities to respond to disasters like oil spills that gravely impact wildlife like these vulnerable hatchlings.
And while it’s still a mystery as to exactly what drives these primordial creatures back to the place of their birthright to lay their eggs, it’s truly one of nature’s most cinematic scenes.