Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leatherback Sea Turtles Returning to Nest

This February marks the start of another nesting season for our Critically Endangered Leatherback sea turtles. Every year from February – July female leatherbacks arrive on our beaches under the cover of darkness to lay their nests in the sand. About 8 weeks later, the hatchlings will emerge from the sand and make their way to the sea to begin the rest of their life. They will have a daunting fight for survival - it is estimated that less than 1 in 1000 of these leatherback turtles will survive to adulthood!

The EAG’s Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project keeps a close eye on turtles nesting on our beaches and volunteers are already out awaiting the arrival of our first nesting female. The public is encouraged to assist by reporting sightings of nesting turtles, fresh turtle tracks, or nest hatchings on beaches around the island. Leatherbacks are the largest of all sea turtle species; however the public is advised that “riding”, flipping, or sitting on the animals can cause spinal injuries and internal bleeding.

Sea turtles and their eggs are also protected by law during the nesting season and beach goers should keep in mind the following:

- Sand should not be removed from any beach
- Avoid damage to nests buried under the sand by keeping vehicles off the beach and avoid constructing camp fires on turtle nesting beaches
- Lights on or near the beach should be shielded or turned OFF as they can disorient turtles
- Keep the beaches free of trash – turtles often mistake garbage for food and become entangled in debris

Turtles that are born on Antigua and Barbuda’s beaches will return some 20-30 years later to lay their own eggs, after many trans-Atlantic migrations! Join the EAG Antigua Sea Turtle Project this season in giving our turtles a warm and safe welcome home!

Anyone wishing to report a sighting or participate in beach patrols should contact the Antigua Sea Turtle Project at 720 6955. Here's a glimpse from ARKive of what we hope to be seeing alot of in the next few months ARKive video - Female leatherback turtle comes onto beach to lay eggs then returns to ocean