Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rare Loggerhead Turtle visits Parham

Based on observations of video footage aired on ABS Television on Saturday, the "rare turtle" found in Blackman Bay, Parham is most likely an Atlantic Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). The turtle had been found by villagers in about 3 feet of water on Saturday, brought to shore, and later released alive. Loggerheads are indeed rarely seen around Antigua and Barbuda, although there are occasional sightings of the species at sea. Unlike other turtle species including Hawksbills, Green, and Leatherback turtles, Loggerheads are not known to nest on Antigua's beaches. Loggerheads do use the area however for feeding, and the large and powerful jaws allow them to feed on hard shelled animals such as whelks and conch. Typically, loggerheads reach sexual maturity at 35 years old, when they average about 250 lbs. This suggests that the turtle found on Saturday was in the pre-adult stage. Once maturity is reached the turtles will usually make migrations, often crossing the open ocean to reach nesting beaches (often the same beach they were born on). Loggerheads nest mainly in the northern Caribbean (Bahamas, Cuba) and north eastern coast of the United States.

All species of sea turtles found in the Caribbean are endangered, due to serious threats from pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, over-harvesting and loss of nesting and feeding habitats. The actions of Robert Young (aka Bubbler) and others in the Parham community on Saturday to protect and release the rare sea turtle are exemplary and absolutely essential for the survival of turtle populations. If all communities around the island adopted the attitude of Bubbler to "look after these animals", then sea turtles may be around for years to come.