Thursday, July 17, 2008

Turtle Patrols out on the Beaches

The majority of turtles found nesting on our beaches are either Hawksbills, which are renowned for their golden brown shell,

or Leatherbacks, the largest and most impressive of turtle species.

Sea turtles live in the water their entire lives, but return to land as adults to lay their eggs. This short time on land is an important opportunity for collecting information about them.

Six turtle nesting sites around Antigua have been under the close watch of volunteer beach patrols since the nesting season began in April. About a dozen volunteers including about six new recruits make up the patrol teams this year. Many patrollers have no previous experience and have been trained from scratch in sea turtle conservation and nesting habits, enabling them to identify turtle tracks, nest sites, and collect important data on nesting patterns on our beaches. Patrols will continue throughout the turtle nesting season until mid-November.

Above, Andrea is shown sorting the contents of a hatched nest on Jabberwock beach. One of the things that motivate our volunteers is the great odds that turtles face in the fight for survival. Juvenile turtles are easy prey for a number of other species including crabs, dogs, mongoose, birds, and fish. Larger turtles however have few natural predators, but often fall victim to human activities. Drowning from entanglement in fishing gear (turtles breather air) or ingestion of marine debris are common causes of turtle fatality. Hunting, as well as destruction of feeding and nesting areas also contributes to their decline. In fact, it is estimated that only 1 in 1000 sea turtles will survive to adulthood and lay her own eggs! Many of the turtles spotted in our waters are in fact quite small, and still have many years ahead of them before they will produce offspring of their own.

Persons interested in volunteering for beach patrols or reporting information on turtle nesting should call the Sea Turtle Hotline at (268) 720 6955.

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