Olive Ridley Turtle hatchings discovered in Kelating Beach, Bali

Light plays an important part in our lives. In the natural world, the soft twinkle of starlight and the warmth of moonbeams guide much of wildlife behaviour.  Sea turtles live most of their lives out in the open sea and converge within 15kms around nesting sites for about two months during nesting periods. Beach fidelity is common among turtles, but not absolute, i.e. adult turtles try to reach the site where they were born to lay clutches of 30 – 170 eggs. They are typically guided to land by moonlight or the presence of light on the land itself, which acts as a beacon guiding the turtles to find higher ground where they can safely lay their eggs.  According to locals, turtles have never been sighted at Kelating Beach. The Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings recently discovered in front of Alila Villas Soori most likely hatched from a clutch laid by a turtle who was attracted by the lights of Alila Villas Soori.

Although in busy nesting sites some turtles lay their eggs by day, turtles mostly lay their eggs at night. Olive Ridley turtles can lay up to 3 clutches of as many as 80 eggs. The greatest danger for the eggs come from predators such as monitor lizards and crabs digging them out. Turtle eggs are also a sought-after delicacy by humans. The incubation period for Olive Ridley eggs is usually 45 to 51 days, but may extend to 70 days in poor weather conditions.

Eggs typically hatch at night. Hatchlings crawl out of the sand and become attracted by the sparkle of water at the sea’s edge. If there is artificial light around when they emerge from the nest, hatchlings may become confused and go the opposite direction. Some nests become covered by vegetation during the incubation period, and some hatchlings get trapped in the undergrowth. Large pieces of debris such as driftwood also hinder their path into the sea. The journey from the nest to the sea is the most dangerous period in a turtle’s life. Their shells are still very soft, and if they are still on land by day, they are in danger of being eaten by Seagulls and other predators. They also only have a small reserve of strength within their small bodies to reach the sea before they must forage and fend off sea predators for themselves. Once turtles mature into adolescence and their shells harden, they have few predators other than sharks and killer whales.

The Olive Ridley is the smallest surviving species of sea turtle, with an average adult carapace length of 60 to 70cm.  Hatchlings have a carapace length ranging from 37-50mm, are dark gray with a pale yolk scar. They live in tropical and warm waters of the Pacific and India Oceans from India, Arabia, Japan, and Micronesia south to southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. In the Atlantic Ocean, they have been observed off the western coast of Africa and the coasts of northern Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela.

While it is considered the most abundant species, globally Olive Ridley numbers have declined by more than 30% from historic levels. These turtles are considered endangered because few nesting sites remain in the world. Historically, the Olive Ridley has been exploited for food, bait, oil, leather, and fertilizer. The meat is not popular in most parts of the world, but in Bali it is treated as a delicacy. Egg collection is illegal in most of the countries where Olive Ridleys nest, but these laws are rarely enforced.

Turtles are endangered in Indonesia. In Bali, they are on the brink of extinction because of their cultural use in sacrifice ceremonies. They are also considered a delicacy in some coastal villages such as Sanur and Serangan. Of late the illegal turtle trade has been supplied from the islands of East Nusa Tenggara and sightings of turtles in Bali’s waters are becoming more and more rare.

As part of our commitment to the environment, Alila Villas Soori will include protocols in our Environmental Management System to protect this area as a turtle nesting site in the future, should other turtles become attracted by the bright lights of Soori, or should the hatchlings attempt to return to lay their eggs here in the future. This would include training to staff to identify turtle tracks on the beach, protective measures for nests, and procedures to ensure that most hatchlings survive in reaching the open sea. We will also communicate with the local turtle hatchery and nursery in Serangan for the possibility of raising the eggs and/or hatchlings to adolescence to increase their survival rate.

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