Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Category Archives: Reptiles

Featured Tee: Green Iguana

Green Iguana T Shirt

A magnificent green iguana covers the front of this black t shirt. A sure hit with reptile fans, and a gorgeous lizard t shirt! 100% preshrunk cotton. Adult sizes, M, L, XL.
Item RT001 $15.95 US

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Sea Turtles Emerging From Nest

A GREAT DAY FOR SEA TURTLES!

NASSAU, Bahamas — The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources hereby announces that the Fisheries Regulations governing marine turtles have been amended to give full protection to all marine turtles found in Bahamian waters by prohibiting the harvesting, possession, purchase and sale of turtles, their parts and eggs. The new regulations also prohibits the molestation of marine turtle nests.

The regulations came into effect on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009.

The Government has engaged in intensive and extensive consultations with the public over the issue of the ban on the harvesting and sale of marine turtles for the past twelve months. The commitment to the conservation and preservation of these species while in Bahamian waters has been demonstrated by the introduction of protective measures and safeguards over the past two decades, starting with the actions taken to safeguard the hawksbill turtle in 1986.

For more great articles on ocean life, be sure and visit Thriving Oceans

Snake Ahoy

When people think of prairie rattlesnakes, they generally think of sand, cactus and hot dusty rocks. Here’s an alternate view!

These pictures were taken in southern Alberta, just north of Dinosaur Provincial Park, and yes the park has a healthy rattlesnake population.  Whether this big guy was too hot, or just trying to get to the other side, he tackled the Red Deer River with ease.

Diamond-backed rattlesnake

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake

Into the water we go

Into the water

And away we go

And away we go

All snakes can swim. They use the water’s surface tension to glide and can lift 1/4 to 1/3 of their body length off of the water surface. But you don’t generally think of snakes in the hot, arid prairies taking a dip!

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.

Supersized Slitherer

An open-pit coal mine in Colombia has revealed the remains of several giant prehistoric snakes, thought to be the largest ever to have lived.

The constrictors, named Titanoboas, weighed more than 2,500 pounds (1134 kg), measured up to 43 feet long (13 m) from nose to tip and 39 inches (100 cm) around. The largest living snake today, the giant, or green, anaconda average about 17 feet (5 m) in length, but some can grow to more than 30 feet (9 m) long and 3 feet (90 cm) around.

Artist rendering of Titanoboa courtesty of Indiana University.

Artist rendering of Titanoboa courtesty of Indiana University.

A vertebra of Titanoboa is about as wide as a man’s hand. The verterbra of a 17 ft anaconda is about an inch wide. The scientists estimated the size of the snake from the spinal vertebra, and soon realized they were the largest ever seen.

The fossils were in rock dating back 60 million years, and give scientists an unprecedented insight into the large animals that ruled the tropics after the sudden demise of the dinosaurs.

Titanoboa’s size also gives clues about its environment, since cold-blooded animals grow much larger in warmer climates. Based on the snake’s size, researchers calculated that the tropics were on average 5C warmer than they are today.

The fossils suggest equatorial temperatures in Titanoboa’s day were significantly warmer than they are now, during a time when the world as a whole was warmer. The findings suggest the equatorial regions will warm up along with the rest of the planet.

Throwing global warming into this equation, you can pause to wonder about two things. If the tropical areas of the earth continue to experience a rise in temperatures along with the rest of the world, will their reptiles increase in size accordingly?

The largest cold-blooded animals alive today are in the tropics where it is hottest, but farther away from the equator they generally get smaller. As temperatures around the world rise, does this mean snakes in the temperate areas will also get larger? Or could it mean the large, tropical snakes of today will move northward?

I doubt we would ever see a 45 foot long snake again – nor would most of us want to. There are no longer any 10 ft (3 m) giant turtles for them to eat, for one thing.

When it comes to global warming 99.9% of the news is bad. With apologies to those who don’t like reptiles, I find it very refreshing to think that climate change may actually benefit reptile species. But then again, I am a reptile fan.