Article: Why Life is So Tough for Sea Turtles, National Geographic online
- Tell me about the story in your own words.
- Tell me why the event interested you.
- Write about the impact of this event/development on society, culture, science, or on the environment.
- What would be a good area for further investigation, or what further questions would have in this area based on what you read?
I read about a place in Florida that saves baby sea turtles that are endangered. It’s called Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This turtle rescue group exists because all seven of the world’s sea turtle populations are decreasing due to many things, such as pollution, poaching, loss of natural nesting areas and climate change. The aquarium takes care of injured and sick turtles, and if they recover, they put them back into the ocean. The story also tells about the “ups and downs” of being a sea turtle, such as getting eaten by natural predators (birds, bigger sea animals, humans, dogs), as well as other threats such as diseases, discarded fishing gear or plastic garbage, and electric lights that confuse the babies as they try to leave their nests and enter the ocean after hatching.
This story interested me because this winter break I am with my family in Mexico, where they have a turtle rescuing organization which I am writing about in this blog.
Tortugueros Las Playitas Sea Turtle Rescue–Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Tortugueros Las Playitas is a group of volunteers who save sea turtle eggs, incubate them in a warm greenhouse on the beach until they hatch, and then release them into the ocean. My family and I have worked as volunteers twice (including right now) to help save the endangered sea turtles of southern Baja California.
Female sea turtles land on the beach and walk up a distance until they find a spot to dig their deep holes, where they then lay their eggs. Females can lay between 100 and 170 eggs in one birth. It takes between 52-65 days for baby turtles to hatch from their eggs. The warm sun on the sand helps incubate the baby turtles. When they hatch, the babies scurry back to the ocean, where they face crashing waves, predators such as birds and fish.
So why is it necessary for Tortugueros Las Playitas to dig up the eggs and incubate them in a greenhouse, and then release them? First, the turtles have been forced to lay their eggs further and further north, as Cabo San Lucas has developed and built so many beachfront hotels and restaurants. The turtles need dark, quiet beaches to nest on, and these are mostly gone further south so the females look for darker places further north. When the turtles travel north to Todos Santos to nest, the temperature is cooler–too cold for the turtles to incubate by themselves. That’s why Tortugueros Las Playitas built the greenhouse incubator, to keep the eggs warm enough to hatch. Also, wherever the eggs are laid, there are many dangers to them, such as horseback riders, ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), dogs and poachers, who dig up the eggs to sell for “health” reasons (which is not good for the turtles and not good for the humans who eat the eggs either).
I am interested in this project because I want to save these turtles from extinction. In fact, 6 out of 7 species of sea turtles are currently endangered. According to Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program (https://www.wildcanyon.com.mx/los-cabos-sea-turtle-release-program/), only one out of 1000 baby turtles makes it to adulthood because of habitat disruption, predators, poaching and fishing nets. I volunteered because I want more of these baby turtles to make it to adulthood. The main turtles that we are helping in this rescue are Green Ridleys and the very endangered Leatherback.
The impact on the environment of this turtle rescue project is to increase sea turtle survival rate in this area of Mexico. By providing a warm and safe nesting place, and a hand-delivered release back into the ocean, hopefully more turtles will survive to adulthood and continue to reproduce.
Some questions for further investigation are: Is it OK for humans to to dig up the turtle egg nests and then re-bury them in a different place? Does this somehow affect the babies growing inside the shells? Does this project really improve the survival rate of the sea turtles? How can we know for sure?
I can highly recommend coming here to Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, to volunteer with this project. It is amazing to see the little turtles hatching and scurrying to the ocean at sunset. I will never forget this experience!