Of turtles and men

BIODIVERSITY, COLIVING

Sea turtles belong to the reptile group. They have lived in the ocean for 150 million years. They survived all the past climate crises. When early European explorers discovered the Pacific Islands, there were millions of turtles in the sea. Today, the 7 different species are all in danger.

(Lire en français)

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Worried

  • Anthropocene – Human activities are the first threat for sea turtles : deep-sea fishing and nets where turtles get caught and die drowning because they can not go back to the surface to breathe ; the plastic bags that they swallow thinking it’s jellyfish and suffocate ; all kinds of plastic waste polluting their natural habitat ; global warming which affects their ability to reproduce ; and poachers who steal their eggs to sell them because they are considered aphrodisiac and eaten in some countries.
  • Unbalanced populations – The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the eggs. 

They will all be females if the nest is warmer than 85 F. If the nest is colder than that, all the babies will be males. 

Global warming is affecting the temperature of the nest. Since the beaches are getting hotter, it has been noticed that less males were born, which threatens the balance of males and females in the population. They have less chance to survive and reproduce with too many females and not enough males. Scientists are experimenting with different strategies to cool down the nests and try to raise the males born population.

seaturtles_web.jpg

  • Slow maturity – Female turtles cannot reproduce before the age of 20. Before that, they cannot lay eggs. And it is becoming increasingly rare that they reach this age…
  • Minimal chances – When they emerge from their nest at night, baby turtles go naturally to the sea. They locate the waves flashing in the moonlight. More and more, buildings and roads along the beach create light pollution and attract the babies in the wrong direction. During the day, baby turtles have very little chance of survival. They are food for birds and crabs on the beach, and many more predators once in the ocean.

Statistics are cruel: out of 1000 eggs laid, only one turtle will become an adult.

female-turtle-nesting_web.jpg

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Amazed 

  • Only females will come out of the ocean – Ladies come to the beach to nest. They can come back up to 3 times in the same season to lay eggs. Males spend their entire life in the ocean and will never see the land.
  • Their life cycle is still a mystery – Scientists have no idea what sea turtles do or where they go during the first 15 years of their life.

During those « Lost Years », turtles live their own odyssey before they meet near the nesting beach to feed together and reproduce.

  • They practice freediving sex – Turtles mate while swimming, and that’s very beautiful. Like whales, they can not breathe underwater. They need to come to the surface regularly to fill their lungs with air.

sea-turtle-threesome

  • They know their way without GPS – They use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, and yet their brain is no bigger than a coin. That’s how female turtles find their way to the beach where they were born and where they will give life again.

WWF-Green turtle_Kenya.jpg

  • They are great ecosystem regulators – By eating jellyfish, sea turtles free the corals, which give the fish the opportunity to feed from them.
  • They know well about community – Each year they gather at the same time on a beach like in Ostional, Costa Rica where they arrive by thousands. Those collective arrivals are called arribadas. They usually happen at the beginning and the end of the lunar cycles, when the tide is low and the waves smaller. 

arribadas_large

 

Rooted 

  • In West European culture, the turtle is a symbol of slowness and perseverance.
  • In China, the turtle is considered a symbol of wisdom and longevity.
  • In Japan, it is synonymous with luck.
  • In Hindu mythology, the world is thought to rest on the backs of four elephants who stand on the shell of a turtle.
  • In Africa, the turtle is associated with fertility. This animal represents the woman, as opposed to the serpent which is a male power symbol.
  • In Native American tales, the turtle carries the universe on its back. Its wisdom contributes to build the world. It is a guarantee of stability.
  • In Polynesia, sea turtles (called Honu) are associated with longevity, procreation and fertility. They were considered the guardians of the tribe. Legends tell that they guided the first inhabitants to the islands of Hawaii.

seaturtle_worldonherback.jpg

 

Proactive 

  • Volunteer on the beach : pick up trash or patrol with biologists.
  • Reduce your own plastic waste. Stop using plastic cups or plastic bags and avoid straws (they are their worst enemy !)
  • Try to eat fish coming from non-destructive fishing practices.
  • Protect their nesting sites : regulate more the building codes near the beaches. Regenerate their habitat by reintroducing native plants.
  • LOVE THE TURTLES ❤

 

More

-Volunteer on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica (nesting season is from April to August)

-Volunteer on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica (nesting season is from September to March)

-National Geographic’s article: « Sea Survivors »

-National Geographic’s article: « Sea turtles are surviving—despite us »

-Article from WWF: « Tortues. Restaurer la parité pour perpétuer l’espèce » 

-Article WWF: « Tortues. Restaurer la parité pour perpétuer l’espèce » 

-My article: My first Leatherback  

-My article: Night patrol in Cabuyal

More general information on sea turtles 

 

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