Olive Ridley Project

Project Details

We are a UK based charity that works towards protecting sea turtles and their habitats in the Indian Ocean.

Meet the team:

Martin Stelfox: CEO and founder of the Olive Ridley Project. Martin has had a passion for all things reptiles from an early age. From as young as 8 he was caring for over 50 lizards and snakes that were rescued from those abused by their owners. It is no surprise that he later became a biologists and now works to protect sea turtles in the Indian Ocean. Martin is currently conducted a PhD at the University of Derby, his researc focuses on the impact of ghost gear in the Maldives and part of his research is to understand the genetics of those turtles found entangled in the Maldives to hopefully pinpoint which population they belong to and where they may have originated from.

Dr. Jillian Hudgins: Senior Project Scientist. As a consultant for the Maldivian government on issues of turtle conservation, Jillian is working with resort marine biologists and local islanders to raise awareness and promote education about the marine ecosystem in the Maldives.

Jillian has been working with the Olive Ridley Project since its inception in 2013 and is currently the Senior Project Scientist. Jillian heads up the sea turtle Photo-ID research and is one of the worlds leading experts in sea turtle Photo-ID methods.

Ibrahim Shameel: Project Coordinator. Shameel has spent the last couple of years researching whale sharks with our friends at the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) . He was a key member in carrying out the in-field research operation, as well as the community initiatives, such as the Maldives Whale Shark Festival. Shameel works closely with local islands and fishers to protect sea turtles in the Maldives.

Dr. Claire Petros: Sea Turtle Veterinarian Surgeon. Claire is the Olive Ridley Project full time vet based in the Maldives. Claire works alongside local NGOs, organisations and biologists to organizes the transport of sick and injured turtles to undergo recovery at our turtle rehabilitation centre in the Maldives. Claire experience in sea turtle veterinary science shines through at our rescue centre and continues to care for and rehabilitate many sea turtles back into the wild in the Maldives. 

What do we do?

As a UK charity we have three main charitable objectives and these are:

1. To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of the Indian Ocean in particular but not exclusively by

a) the removal of ghost gear from the marine environment reducing the negative effects on coastal communities and marine animals particularly the Olive Ridley sea turtle

b) by promoting the recycling of end of life fishing nets.

2. To advance the education of the public in the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of the marine sea turtle, in particular, but not exclusively the Olive Ridley sea turtle by the provision of talks, workshops, training and research.

3. To promote humane behaviour towards the Olive Ridley sea turtle by providing appropriate care, protection, treatment and security for animals which are in need of care and attention by reason of sickness, maltreatment, poor circumstances or ill usage and to educate the public in matters pertaining to animal welfare in general and the prevention of cruelty and suffering among animals.

Where do we work:

The Olive Ridley Project predominately operates in the Maldives. We have a full time vet situated in one of the 26 atolls and have a project coordinator that travels the country educating local schools, community groups, biologists and local councils about sea turtle conservation and protection in the Maldives. Shameel has also trained over 100 volunteers stationed in the Maldives that continue to send us data on sea turtle entanglement events and sea turtle identification so that we can better understand sea turtle research and make more informed choices when trying to protect sea turtles in the Indian Ocean. 

In addition to our Maldivian project we are also have a hub in Pakistan. We currently work with our in country Project Coordinator and Field Officer to reduce the amount of fishing gear entering the ocean and damaging sea turtles and their habitats. We also work with the fishing community in Pakistan to create a circular economy, whereby damaged fishing gear is reused/recycled and sold as a method to generate and alternative income outside of fishing.

What is our mission?

Our mission is to protect sea turtles populations and their habitats through active conservation and research. We specifically focus on reducing the threat of marine debris, predominantly abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ghost gear) and other anthropogenic threats. 

Who are we looking for?

The Olive Ridley Project prides itself on the passion that our team brings to sea turtle conservation. We would like to work with like minded people that have a true passion and care for sea turtle conservation and represent ORP with the same passion that we project onto others. Although previous experience in science related fields or turtle conservation is a bonus they are not necessary as we like to bring new skill sets to the team.

Why choose us?

We stay dedicated to our goals at all times. If you join our team you will be part of a passionate community that is well respected within the turtle community. We work closely with many world renowned sea turtle biologists and strive to have very clear outputs from all the data we collect. We work closely with local NGOs and align our objectives to ultimately better the surrounding environment. In addition we provide as much training as possible for all team members to help further personal development in this field. 

The main focus of the project is on
NPO Status
Yes, registered non-profit organization
Foundation Year
Contact Person
Martin Stelfox
Spoken Languages

Social Impact

Research and collaborations

The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) was formed in 2013 and since became a registered charity in the UK in 2016. Since our inception we have written technical reports for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to bring to light the problem of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear to tuna stocks managers in the Indian Ocean. This was presented at the 10th Working Party on Ecosystem and Bycatch in Japan 2015. We have worked alongside the Marine Research Centre (MRC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop a standarised protocol on ghost gear events. This protocol has allowed us to quantify the problem in the Maldives and continue to build baseline evidence on the issue of ghost gear and turtle entanglements in the region.

ORP currently sit on two working groups of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), a sectoral alliance of NGOs, governments, fisheries and private sector to inform the best solutions and methods for preventative and curative solutions to the problem of ghost gear world wide. ORP CEO was the coordinator for the build evidence working group and helped facilitate and guide all stakeholders on data standardization of ghost gear worldwide. Our Senior Project Scientists currently sits on the solutions working group on the GGGI and informs other stakeholders on best methods to deal with ghost gear at the community level.

We have been recognized by the Indian Ocean South East Asian - Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA -MoU), an intergovernmental agreement to protect sea turtles in the Indian Ocean, as observers for the protection of sea turtles against ghost gear. We are working alongside Pakistan and key stakeholders to assists address this issue in the country. 

ORP has helped to organize two photo-ID workshops in association with the International Sea Turtle Symposium. We are working with an international group of turtle photo-ID experts to develop a photo-ID software and “The Internet of Turtles”, which will provide a unique set of open source software for monitoring and analysing sea turtle populations around the world.

Community achievements

Our community projects situated in both Pakistan and the Maldives have trained over 300 school children on sea turtle related issues and marine debris. We have conducted many workshops amongst community members, biologists and fishing communities on the dangers of ghost gear to turtles and how to respond to turtle entanglements and collect scientific data. For example, we work closely with a fishing community in Pakistan (around 1000 fishers) that now voluntarily dispose damaged fishing gear responsibly. Furthermore we have provided the tools to show communities that waste can be reused as an alternative income. This has resulted in creating Karachi first plastic hut made from recycled plastic bottles (over 5000 plastic bottles used) and encourages the community to rework ghost gear into products that can be sold to create an alternative income to the community outside of fishing. 

We also rescue entangled turtles and thanks to our volunteers have recovered and recorded over 300 turtles in the Maldives alone. Our newly opened rescue centre is now able to treat entangled turtles and release them back into the wild. 

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