The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), commonly called the Pacific ridley turtle, is one of the most common turtles in the world, with a population of roughly 800,000 to 1 million remaining turtles. Despite this, they are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

These turtles get their name from the olive-green coloration of their heart-shaped carapace. They are also one of the smallest sea turtle species, with an average length of around 70 cm and a weight of 50 kilograms.

The Pacific ridley turtles are native to the warm and tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They also inhabit the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

These turtles are also well known for their mass nesting. Every year, thousands of females simultaneously lay eggs on the same beach. These nestings are known as arribadas.


The Olive Ridley turtles have a medium-sized body, reaching about 70 cm long and weighing about 40-50 kilograms. Their carapace is heart-shaped, smooth, and olive green, while their underbelly, the plastron, is pale yellow.

Like other sea turtles, the shell acts as a protective cover, covering its internal organs. It also supports its body and helps the turtle regulate its body temperature by absorbing and radiating heat.

The underbelly of mature olive ridley turtles is usually pale yellow in color
The underbelly of mature olive ridley turtles is usually pale yellow in color

The head of an olive ridley turtle is small and triangular, with a sharp, beak-like mouth. They also have paddle-like flippers that enable them to navigate the water with great agility, making them graceful swimmers.

Their hatchlings are usually dark grey with a pale yellow scar, and they appear all black when wet.


In the Pacific Ocean, olive ridley sea turtles live on the coasts of California, Mexico, and Central America. They have also been spotted in the waters of Japan, Indonesia, and Australia.

In the Atlantic Ocean, they inhabit areas along the coasts of Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, and West Africa. Also, the shores of India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia are home to ridley turtles.

They are well known for their mass nesting events called arribadas, where thousands of turtles simultaneously come ashore to lay eggs. They mostly prefer to nest on coarse sandy beaches with relatively stable temperatures, such as the coasts of Mexico, India, and Costa Rica.

Olive ridleys exhibit mass nesting events known as arribadas

Since it is a highly adaptable species, it can survive in different marine ecosystems such as shallow lagoons, coral reefs, and open ocean waters.

However, this sea turtle species is predominantly pelagic, spending most of its time in the open ocean waters. The species moves to coastal waters during breeding, and females come to the sandy beaches to lay their eggs.


As omnivores, olive ridley turtles have a diverse diet. However, they are mainly predatory and are known to feed on a wide assortment of prey, such as shellfish, mollusks, jellyfish, shrimp, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and crabs.

In addition to their invertebrate diet, they also feed on plants. They graze on algae, seagrasses, and other aquatic plants. They also feed on fruits and other plant material that they find in their environment. This, however, is not a major part of their diet.


Olive ridley turtles are known for their unique mass nesting events. Females typically become sexually mature between the ages of 10 and 15 years. Males, on the other hand, reach maturity a bit earlier, generally around 8 to 12 years old. Once mature, mating takes place in the open ocean, and like all sea turtles, females travel to beaches where they were born to spawn.

Olive ridley juveniles are dark grey in color and typically have a length of about 40mm
Olive ridley juveniles are dark grey in color with a length of about 40 mm

During the nesting period, thousands of female olive ridley turtles emerge from the water and lay their eggs together. Each nesting season, they lay about two to three clutches of 50 to 200 eggs and return to the sea.

The eggs then incubate for about 60 days before hatching. The warmer the temperatures are during the incubation period, the more females hatch. Likewise, when the nest is colder, more males hatch.

After hatching, the juvenile turtles make their way into the ocean, where they spend the next years of their lives.


Olive ridley turtles are one of the most endangered species of sea turtles. Over the years, their populations have declined sharply due to several threats. Firstly, many olive ridleys never make it to adulthood. This is because their hatchlings and juveniles are preyed upon by a variety of predators, such as crabs, birds, and other turtles.

Adults, on the other hand, face threats from fisheries, where they often get caught or entangled in fishing nets resulting in injuries or death.

One of the primary threats to olive ridley turtles is entanglement in fishing gears.
One of the primary threats to olive ridley turtles’ survival is entanglement in fishing gear

Habitat destruction is also a major threat to them, as their natural habitats and nesting grounds are destroyed or polluted. For this reason, the turtles are forced to move to other areas, thus threatening their survival.

On top of that, pollution from plastic debris and oil spills harms the turtles and damages their foraging grounds and nesting beaches.


Despite the many threats faced by olive ridley sea turtles, the good news is that conservation measures are being taken to protect them.

Organizations such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy are working to protect the turtles’ nesting sites by monitoring and protecting beaches. At the same time, conservationists are working to reduce bycatch in fishing nets and educating fishermen about sustainable fishing practices.

Ultimately, their future depends on the actions of humans. Therefore, by reducing our pollution and protecting their habitats, we can ensure these beautiful creatures will be around for future generations.

Quick Facts about Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

  1. Olive ridley sea turtles are one of the smallest and most abundant sea turtle species.
  2. They have an olive-green carapace, where they get their name.
  3. Pacific ridley turtles live in warm waters of the Indian, South Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.
  4. Their females return to the sandy beaches where they were hatched to lay their eggs.
  5. They are omnivores.
  6. These turtles engage in mass nesting events known as arribadas, where thousands of females come ashore to lay eggs on the same beach.
  7. A female olive ridley can lay over one hundred eggs three times per year.


Is an olive ridley turtle edible?

Over the years, olive ridley has been used as a source of meat in some regions. Although their meat is not a delicacy, their eggs are highly sought after worldwide. However, since it’s listed as vulnerable, consuming and collecting their eggs is illegal.

What is the role of the Pacific ridley turtles in the ecosystem?

Olive ridleys play an essential role in the marine ecosystem. Since they are omnivores, they help control seaweed growth and keep their prey species’ populations in check. They are also a food source for other marine species, such as tiger sharks and seagulls. In addition, they are highly migratory animals, thus helping circulate nutrients throughout the ocean as they migrate between their feeding and nesting grounds.

What is being done to protect the olive ridley turtles?

Currently, there are several preservation efforts to protect the olive ridley sea turtles. These efforts include safeguarding their nesting grounds, decreasing bycatch, and enforcing laws and regulations prohibiting their eggs’ collection.

Can olive ridley turtles be kept as pets?

No, it is not recommended to keep olive ridley turtles as pets. These turtles are protected species in many countries due to their conservation status. Keeping them as pets is illegal and goes against conservation efforts to preserve their populations.

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