A Lifelong Journey for Survival
It is an incredible experience, watching baby sea turtle some no bigger than your pinkie, acting upon some instinctive notion that as soon as they hatch, they must make it to the sea as fast as their little legs will carry them. Kind of hard to believe when they can ultimately grow up to 3 meters in length. Their mothers, long-gone by this point, will have buried their eggs deep into the sands in an attempt to protect her little ones from incoming tides and predators and human poachers. The whole procedure is literally the epitome of survival.
Depending where you are in the world, sea turtles lay their eggs at contrasting times. In and around the Conflict Island Atolls, for instance, turtles start nesting in October through to February. March at the latest. However, the other side of the world in Costa Rica, nesting season begins in August.(www.vacationscostarica.com/travelguide/turtle-nesting-season)
Sea turtles have been swimming in the world’s warm waters from millions of years. One can say, they’ve roamed the earth and the seas with dinosaurs who are long gone extinct.
It’s estimated that sea turtles have been around for at least 200,000,000 years. At some point, there were around 100 species swimming through the oceans. Sadly, nowadays, we can only track seven different species! This appalling decrease is a real threat happening right now on the planet as you read this article and the reason why there are so many sea turtle conservation volunteer programs out there. Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative been one.
See, the sea turtles like to go to hot climates where their eggs can freely hatch. In the past, sea turtles’ natural threats were only hungry wild animals looking for supper. Now, the threat has increased. The very same beaches that were once free, now are also visited by poachers. The fishing industry and its nets are turning healthy gracious turtles into animals that cannot fend for themselves in the wild. And, we, humans are interfering and messing around with nature’s previously designed habitat.
We’ll first talk about how sea turtles’ nest. Next, we’ll explain the threats and what’s being done to help them.
How Sea Turtles Nest
Male sea turtles stay in the water, while females come out at night to lay eggs in the sand. Sea turtles travel hundreds and even thousands of miles, but they usually manage to find their way back to where they were born. How fascinating!
A baby sea turtle is called a hatchling. These little ones dig out of their nest at night and go back to the water. They swim to deeper water, which is safer, but their journey is tough, and they face many natural dangers. Birds, crabs, lizards, fish and all try to eat the baby turtles. Storms and hurricanes can also ruin nests. Most baby turtles do not survive to become adults.
Threats to Sea Turtles
It is a sad reality that sea turtles are endangered, which means they’re in danger of becoming extinct or disappearing forever. People cause many threats to sea turtles
Pollution – When we pollute the water with thrash or chemicals, the water becomes less safe to the animals who live there. Sea Turtles eat jellyfish, which look a lot like plastic. When these turtles eat plastic bags; they can choke and die. Pollution with chemicals may also lead to diseases in sea turtles.
Bycatch – Catching fish for food is a big business, the problem is bycatch, which happens when fishermen accidentally catch other animals like sea turtles. Sea turtles can be hurt or killed by nets and tools.
Climate change – the climate of the sand in which mother turtles will lay their eggs determines the sex of the hatchling. If there is not a good balance between males and females, there will not be enough turtles reproducing for future generations.
Overharvesting – there is still a huge demand for turtle egg soup in many countries, and all too often eggs are snatched from their nests in order to fuel this trade.
Interesting Sea Turtle Facts:
Sea turtles are very old organisms. They live on the Earth more than 220 million years. They managed to survive weather changes which killed the dinosaurs.
Their body is protected with upper shell called carapace.
Unlike land turtles, sea turtles can't hide their heads and legs inside the shell. That makes them more vulnerable when they meet predators.
Sea turtles spend most of their life in the ocean. Females can be seen on the beaches only during nesting season.
During nesting season female will return to the same beach where she was born. She will find the right beach even after 30 years of absence.
Turtle lays eggs in the holes in the sand. These "nests" can't be recognized easily because turtle covers them with additional layer of sand. Depending on the species, each nest contains between 60-200 eggs.
Temperature determines the gender of the baby turtles. Female will be born if the temperature of the egg is high and male if the temperature of the egg is low.
Young turtles hatch during night and they use moonlight to find their way to the sea. Too many lights that are coming from the beach or from a nearby road can disorient and confuse young turtles.
Sea turtles walk slowly on the ground because their flippers are adapted for swimming and not walking. They are excellent swimmers that can travel large distances. Leatherback turtle can travel 12.000 miles from Indonesia to Oregon.
Sea turtles don't have teeth, but their mouths are adapted to each type of food that they normally eat. Green Sea Turtle is vegetarian who eats sea grass, while other turtles eat crabs, clams, jellyfish, sea cucumbers…
Sea turtles will grab and eat plastic bag from the water because it looks like a jellyfish. This could kill sea turtle.
Sea turtles have lungs and breathe atmospheric air. They spend most of their time under water, but they need to come to the surface of the water to grab some air.
Size of sea turtles is specific for each species. Kemp's Ridley turtle weighs 80-100 pounds, while Leatherback turtle weighs more than 1000 pounds.
Sea turtles can hear vibration. They have excellent eyesight and sense of smell.
Sea turtles can live from 70-80 years.
Sea Turtle Conservation in the Conflict Islands
Ian Gowrie-Smith, a self-made man whom now owns several properties around the globe, is the proud and humble owner of one of the last freehold atolls in the world, The Conflict Islands. These islands are an extraordinary rare jewel at the epicentre of the world’s best diving, and recognizing their ecological and environmental importance, Ian or IGS as he is known, decided to fund and set up Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative in 2017. He wished to preserve the islands for future generations to enjoy, preserve and conserve the islands’ natural beauty and protection of its species.
“We don’t have an option to do nothing, if we don’t do anything, these islands will deteriorate to the point where the world’s class corals and biodiversity will perish,” IGS said.
Nonetheless, it is time again that we give a warm shout out to individuals who will embark on this journey with the local Conservation Rangers to help conserve and protect the sea turtles of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is an incredible country with a rich history and incredibly diverse culture. It is a nation with a thousand tribes and has about 830 known languages and some areas still relatively untouched by the western world. All in all, Milne Bay is known as a very peaceful province within.
At Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative, we are dedicated to science-based conservation, with a focus on community education. Through the Conservation Initiative, we aim to develop a long-term turtle tagging program to monitor the populations at the Conflict Islands and their connections to the Coral Sea. This project will study the population of nesting female green and hawksbill turtles to create a baseline dataset and to assess the effectiveness of ongoing conservation efforts in the area.
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to assist with egg collection for our Turtle Hatchery and learn about sea turtle husbandry at our Turtle Nursery. For more info: (www.cici.net.au)
Conflict Islands, Paradise in the Coral Sea
Located in the pristine waters of the Coral Sea, the Conflict islands comprise of 21 untouched islands and boast one of the most extensive biodiversity and coral reefs in the world. One may call it the ‘last frontier’. With a third of the world’s species of marine fish, the Conflict Islands are home to everything from the tiny ghost pipe fish to the huge manta rays and whale sharks. The 21 uninhabited tropical islands surround a spectacular lagoon and are currently under consideration for a World Heritage Marine Site. Among the group of islands, Irai Island, has been found to have the second-best coral in the world with the greatest number of species noted in a single dive – a diver’s absolute dream!
The main island, Panasesa is open to travelers from cruise ships and features a Club House, six beach front bungalows and a runway capable of landing short-haul flights (www.conflictislands.com).
Cruise ships started visiting Panasesa Island in 2016. Offshore activities on offer include diving, kayaking, sailing on traditional outrigger sailing canoe, boating and nature encounters and many more.
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