The Olive Ridley Project Story
The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) is on a mission to protect sea turtles and their habitats through rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education and outreach. At the core of our work is a passionate and dedicated team of scientists, veterinarians, conservationists, citizen scientists and volunteers. We pride ourselves in being able to collaborate with a wide range of diverse groups in order to reach our goal and fill data gaps in sea turtle conservation.
The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) was founded by Dr Martin Stelfox in 2013. Working as a biologist in the Maldives, he encountered a countless number of olive ridley sea turtles entangled in abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing nets. Martin was curious to understand why this was happening and questioned where the nets were coming from. He decided to enlist the help of other biologists and citizen scientists to help answer these questions. His dedication and passion for helping these prehistoric reptiles formed the foundations of the ORP, which later expanded its mission to take a multifaceted and holistic approach to protecting sea turtles and their habitats.
In addition to scientific research, ORP started focusing on sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, and on education and outreach, early on. Then, in 2017, we opened the first veterinarian run marine turtle rescue centre in the Maldives. This was followed by a second rehabilitation centre in 2019. We also grew our education and outreach programs through workshops, seminars, meetings and presentations. Through these programs, we identified a need to highlight the threats faced by sea turtles to scientists, conservationists, policy makers and the general public worldwide. As a result, we introduced new research priorities within ORP. These included sea turtle population health and abundance, threats to sea turtle habitats, as well as spatial ecology, parasitology, sea turtle behaviour, genetics and fishery related threats.
ORP has continued to grow over the years. We have now expanded our operations into several countries in the Indian Ocean region, with bases in Oman, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles and Kenya. Our team has also grown to over 25 experts. Furthermore, the charity is now at the forefront of turtle conservation: We influence local policy makers, fishing communities and collaborate with a number of research institutes.
In 2016, Olive Ridley Project became a UK Charitable Incorporated Organisation, registered Charity No. 1165905, registered in England & Wales.
Plans For the Future
Sea turtles are truly global “citizens”, knowing no borders or boundaries. In the same spirit, we will take a global approach to identifying and filling data gaps in sea turtle research, protecting sea turtles and their habitats, and fulfilling our education and outreach mission. We will also continue to encourage collaboration between NGOs, governments and other essential stakeholders to achieve our joint vision of sea turtle conservation.
Where Does the Name “Olive Ridley Project” Come From?
The name “Olive Ridley Project” is testament to our humble beginnings, documenting olive ridley turtle entanglements in the Maldives. Although we have since expanded our mission, our name remains the same. It is a reminder of where it all started and why we do what we do!