Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Sea Turtle News

Green sea turtle

Green sea turtle

I have a real fondness for sea turtles. Gentle, unassuming, charismatic creatures just trying to live their lives as they’ve done for millions of years.

In spite of the size of our oceans, these big reptiles are facing a number of threats to their survival. Pollution, changing ocean temperatures, man-made lights on the beach, disappearance of nesting beaches, being caught in fishing nets and being illegally killed for their meat and shells are the main ones.

Sea turtles are found in all the world’s oceans except the Arctic. There are seven living species: green sea turtle, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley and flatback. All species are listed as threatened or endangered.

There have been a number of news articles on sea turtles lately. Here’s a quick recap

Florida turtle checks herself into hospital

In March, a 73 pound loggerhead turtle showed up in the waters near the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. As this species is not common in the harbor, hospital personnel first assumed it had gotten lost. Further examination showed damage to it’s shell, and it appeared to be emaciated. After being hauled into the boat and taken to the hospital, the turtle was given antibiotics and treatment. She made a full recovery, and was released back into the ocean.

Leatherback Turtles Consuming Plastic

A new study looked at necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherbacks that have died since 1885 and found plastic in the digestive systems of more than a third of the animals. Besides plastic bags, the turtles had swallowed fishing lines, balloon fragments, spoons, candy wrappers and more.

Clear plastic bags floating in the ocean currents look remarkably like jelleyfish – the leatherback’s main food source. Plastic often piles up in areas where currents — and turtles — converge. It can block a turtle’s gut, causing bloating, interfering with digestion, and leading to a slow, painful death.

There are vast fields of trash floating in the world’s oceans. And leatherback turtles travel thousands of miles each year, giving them even more opportunities to come in contact with it.

Simple choices — like putting balloons and picnic supplies in the trash and using canvas instead of plastic grocery bags — can help leatherbacks and other marine creatures survive

Texas students search for nest sites

Students and staff from Texas A&M University in Galveston have begun their annual beach expeditions to locate nesting sites of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. When they find eggs, they send them to Padre Island for incubation.

Last year, Hurricane Ike destroyed vast amounts of beach on the upper Texas coast, decimating the turtle’s nesting habitat. A beach nourishment campaign has trucked sand to places like Bolivar Peninsula and the area in front of the Galveston Seawall. But nobody knows if it’s been enough to encourage the sea turtles to return and lay their eggs. Nesting season lasts from April to mid-July.

Though the turtles’ main nesting grounds are at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico, officials have long worked to establish nesting colonies in the U.S. — primarily at Padre Island National Seashore.

Conservation efforts have been successful. In 2008 about 200 nests were found throughout the state’s coastline, an increase from 1996 when only six nests were found.

Dubai rescued turtle number quadruples

When an 8kg turtle missing its tail and the rear part of its shell came onto Dubai’s shores, it was brought to the turtle rehabilitation unit at Burj Al Arab to recover where the number of recuperating turtles quadrupled this year.

While the rehabilitation centre has seen turtles with traumatic injuries, the majority brought to Burj Al Arab (BAA) are weak from cold winter water temperatures.

The Arabian Gulf normally provides a warm habitat for the turtles to feed and nest, but when the temperatures fall, some turtles, particularly those less than a year old, go into shock, becoming almost immobile. When they stop moving, barnacles grow on their shells, weigh them down and make feeding difficult.

The aquarium  received 87 turtles this year, 84 of which were the endangered hawksbill turtles. According to data published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), there are just 8,000 breeding female hawksbills left in the  world.

Florida turtle walks a hot ticket

Two local groups that guide nighttime sea-turtle tours have long waiting lists each year because sea turtles lay nests here in the highest densities on the planet. Thousands of people are drawn to the Space Coast annually for the “turtle walks.”

Man-made lights are among the biggest threat to sea turtles. So flashlights, flash cameras and video recorders with artificial lighting aren’t allowed during the sea-turtle nesting and hatching season, May 1 to Oct. 31.

When hatchlings emerge from nests, they sprint toward the brightest visible horizon, usually the sea. But lights from beach homes and businesses that shine or reflect onto the beach can lure them to crawl toward the road instead. They get tangled in dune plants, eaten by predators, squashed by cars, or die from exhaustion or dehydration. Adult nesting females also can get disoriented by improper lighting.

Brevard County requires all indoor and exterior lights visible from the beach to be shielded, repositioned, replaced, or turned off after 9 p.m.during sea turtle season.

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