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70,000 Sea Turtles Nest Undisturbed Thanks To COVID-19

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Olive ridley sea turtles have made a striking comeback in the Indian state of Odisha recently thanks to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Over 70,000 of the beautiful sea turtles returned to their nesting grounds this year after skipping their annual migration and nesting last year.

Scientists weren’t unanimous in determining why the sea turtles didn’t return last time but theories range from climate change to natural disasters to most likely human interference on the beach.

The shelter in place orders that Odisha and most other Indian states have put in place due to COVID-19 have given the olive ridley sea turtles a chance to nest undisturbed for the first time in decades.

The Indian state of Odisha is one of the biggest nesting places for the olive ridley sea turtle as well as along the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica. 

“The last time we saw day time nesting of olive ridleys along this site was in 2013. Usually, they come on to the beach for nesting only during the night.

This March was special for us as we saw the species visiting the site at night and even during the day, in equally good numbers,” said Berhampur district forest officer Amlan Nayak to the Mongabay of India.

Despite being one of the most abundant species of sea turtles in the world the olive ridley is still listed as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. 

On a Brazilian beach that has also been left deserted due to the pandemic almost 100 critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles hatched. 

The beach located in the Brazilian state of Penambuco and in the city of Paulista had this occur after the state’s governor Paulo Câmara ordered a shutdown of the entire state urging residents to shelter in place to limit the spread of the virus.

The environmental secretary for the city of Paulista Roberto Couto is also home to the olive ridley sea turtle, the green sea turtle, and the loggerhead turtle in addition to the hawksbill all on the same coastline.

In an interview with The Guardian Couto said that more than 300 turtles have hatched on the Brazilian coastline this year. He added that they usually lay their eggs in January and the eggs hatch in the spring between April or May.

“It’s really beautiful because you can see the exact instant they come out of the eggs and […] watch their little march across the beach,” Couto said.

“This time, because of coronavirus, we couldn’t even tell people it was happening,” he added.

The hawksbill sea turtle hatching undisturbed is such a big victory for the highly endangered species that are often targeted by poachers seeking their colorful shells.

Hopefully, this will be the beginning of their species and more bouncing back.

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Brandon Kirkwood

Animal Rights Activist (ARA), Vegan, Creator and editor of Vegan News, Father to an awesome cat named Boba, Youtuber

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