Researching entangled turtle populations with the Olive Ridley Project

Scroll down

Recently we have been teaming up with the folks over at the Olive Ridley Project to conduct several experiments in order to assist with Martin Stelfox (Founder and CEO)’s PhD thesis. With Martin’s twice yearly visit looming, myself and Josie nipped over to see our friends at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at the Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa to collect some DNA samples from their turtle patients.

As entanglement often leads to flipper amputation,
researching this issue to find solutions is vital.

As you may know, the Olive Ridley Project is working towards eradicating ghost fishing gear in the Indian Ocean, and part of Martin’s thesis is to discover where these nets may be coming from in order to inform fisheries. One way of finding this out is to work backwards, by finding out where the turtles, which become entangled in these nets, came from. Each turtle has it’s own DNA signature which gives us clues as to which population it has come from. We can then start to piece together where the net was present in order to capture a particular turtle. Genius! 

Chilled out juvenile ‘Winslow’

As Four Seasons is the central hub where victims of entanglement are sent for rehabilitation, we headed there to collect our samples.

Having a tissue sample taken is a little bit like having your ear pierced, so thankfully the turtles only feel a little pinch. The skin on their flippers is extremely tough; designed not to be damaged whilst they forage on sharp coral reefs, but we are still mindful to be quick and clean. We did everything possible to reduce stress to the turtles, who were very well behaved, and our results could unlock some interesting answers, making these turtles ambassadors for the protection of their species!

Our thanks go out to the Marine Savers of Kuda Huraa for their hospitality and help with the project!

Martin visited Gili Lankanfushi for a few days last week, where he was able to collect his all important samples and take them back to the lab in the UK! 

Martin has trained over 40 hosts at Gili Lankanfushi!

Whilst here, he helped train a new batch of hosts in case they come across a ghost net or entangled turtle. He also held an interesting presentation for our guests, and set up a pilot study with the ultimate aim of aging ghost gear based on bio-accumulation and UV radiation! 

Martin demonstrates how turtles can become
entangled to an interested group of guests.

To support the important work of the Olive Ridley Project, you can join their #FreeTheFlipper campaign and donate by clicking this link: . The money raised will help develop a system in Pakistan where ghost gear will be collected and reused by the community to generate an alternative income: basically turning trash into treasure, and eliminating discarded nets in the ocean!