60 Million Endangered Sea Turtles Born As Humans Stay At Home

Travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines have kept many out of the way of wildlife this year. In some cases, that’s resulted in wild animals roaming freely on once-bustling but quieted city streets, strange behavior from dolphins who “miss” their curious human friends, and the return of species that were once perilously close to extinction.

In eastern India, the reduced human activity has made it easier for endangered turtles to find their way to nesting spots on hundreds of beaches along the coastline. Experts estimate some 60 million eggs could hatch into baby turtles this year, giving the species more hope for survival.

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The arribada or the mass nesting of olive Ridleys is nothing short of magic. Olive Ridleys live in oceans and only come to land to nest. When the females grow up, they return to the same beaches to lay eggs. How they navigate back was a mystery for a long time but recent science suggests that individual beaches have magnetic fields unique to them. When the turtles hatch, these fields are imprinted into their brains, allowing them to sense it when they need to return. It’s a magnificent internal compass as accurate as the latitudes and longitudes used by humans. Read a spectacular story by Swati Thiyagarajan @swatithiyagarajan on the nesting phenomenon on our website. Link in bio. . Photo: Kartik Shanker @shanker_kartik #arribada #odisha #oliveridley #oliveridleyturtle #nesting #rushikulya #turtle #India #wildlife #conservation #biodiversity #wildlifeIndia #turtles🐢 #massnesting #breed #naturalworld #rgsustain

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According to Sea Voice News, one marine sanctuary in the state of Orissa, India, counted over 407,000 olive Ridley sea turtles successfully laying eggs in March.

Local authorities have been vigilant in protecting the nesting sites from humans or other intruders, but the job has certainly become easier with people limiting their travel.

A baby Olive ridley sea turtle heads for sea after hatching.
Source: YouTube/Reuters
A baby Olive ridley sea turtle heads for sea after hatching.

There are likely many more Olive ridley sea turtles in the oceans than other species, marine biologists estimate, but the Olive Ridley is still threatened. In the Western Atlantic, the Olive Ridley has been all but extirpated.

Millions of sea turtles were born on beaches in India this year.
Source: YouTube/Reuters
Millions of sea turtles were born on beaches in India this year.

According to National Geographic, Olive and Kemp’s ridley turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles, with the Olive ridleys sticking to warmer waters like the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

A man helps baby turtles out of their sandy nest.
Source: YouTube/Reuters
A man helps baby turtles out of their sandy nest.

“These turtles are solitary, preferring the open ocean. They migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, and come together as a group only once a year for the arribada, when females return to the beaches where they hatched and lumber onshore, sometimes in the thousands, to nest,” NatGeo reports. “Olive ridleys have nesting sites all over the world, on tropical and subtropical beaches. During nesting, they use the wind and the tide to help them reach the beach. Females lay about a hundred eggs, but may nest up to three times a year. The nesting season is from June to December.”

Learn more about this turtle boom in the video below.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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