T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Turtle (Olive ridley) Lepidochelys olivacea

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Cheloniidae
Genus: Lepidochelys
Species: L. olivacea
Binomial name: Lepidochelys olivacea
Common names: Olive ridley, Pacific ridley

The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), are smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world. This species of sea turtle is found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They can also be found in warm waters of Atlantic ocean.  Olive ridley is one of the five species of turtles that visit New Zealand’s waters. The other four species are Caretta caretta (Loggerhead), Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback), Dermochelys mydas (Hawksbill) and Chelonia mydas (Green).
Only five specimens of the Olive ridley turtle have been reported stranded around the New Zealand mainland, and there have never been regular sightings. It is most likely that these specimens were stragglers, possibly sick, drifting on ocean currents. 

The Olive ridley gets its name from its olive-coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and is characterized by four pairs of pore-bearing inframarginal scutes on the bridge, two pairs of prefrontals, and up to 9 lateral scutes per side.. Males and females grow to the same size. The heart-shaped carapace (shell) is characterized by four pairs of pore-bearing inframarginal scutes on the bridge, two pairs of prefrontals, and up to 9 lateral scutes per side. Olive ridleys are unique in that they can have variable and asymmetrical lateral scute 6 to 8 counts ranging from five to 9 plates on each side, with six to eight being most commonly observed. Each side of the carapace has 12–14 marginal scutes. The carapace is flattened dorsally. It has a medium-sized, broad head that appears triangular from above. The head's concave sides are most obvious on the upper part of the short snout. It has paddle-like forelimbs, each having two anterior claws. The upperparts are greyish green to olive in colour, but sometimes appear reddish due to algae growing on the carapace. They grow to >60 cm in length and can live up to 50 years.

Lepidochelys olivacea is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Untended fishing gear is responsible for many turtle deaths. Turtles may also suffocate if they are trapped in fishing trawls. Turtle excluder devices have been implemented in efforts to reduce mortality by providing an escape route for the turtles. Loss of suitable nesting beaches and the introduction of exotic predators have also taken a toll on loggerhead populations. Efforts to restore their numbers will require international cooperation since the turtles roam vast areas of ocean and critical nesting beaches are scattered across several countries.

In New Zealand, all sea turtles are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953. This means it is illegal to kill or harass any species of sea turtle within New Zealand's Territorial Sea or Exclusive Economic Zone. It is also illegal to possess a sea turtle, or any part of a sea turtle without a permit issued under the Wildlife Act, or evidence that it was legally imported into New Zealand or was in your possession prior to the commencement of the Wildlife Act (1 April 1954).

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/