What comes to mind when you hear the title turtle release? Hundreds of tiny turtles scampering down the beach to get into the water – right? It’s not much different than little boys and girls running down to play in the water. Here, however, it’s a bit different because water to these little turtles is their life-line, and it’s serious business.
Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species who used to nest on Long Beach (Had Yao beach), but no longer do. There are several environmental groups, companies and local area governments who want to see loggerheads brought back here. These groups have determined it’s in the best interest to revitalize Loggerheads in the area and to educate local school children as well. The importance of turtles and their habitat was the opening theme at the beach today.
A group of around 200 people, including several school groups, attended a ceremony on Long Beach to witness and support the release of Loggerhead turtles there. Many of these kids have never seen a sea turtle, and the joy and amazement of this experience was wonderful to watch. It was a day devoted to turtles and new beginnings!
The turtles were raised from eggs to juvenile on the local Naval base. Over 130, 10cm or 2 month old, and 130 larger, 18cm or 7 month old, turtles were released and given the chance to swim out to sea and populate the ocean. Larger turtles have a better chance of growing and making it to adulthood, so this is why growing some of them to 18cm was also done. This gives the turtles a much better chance of surviving the rigors of the open ocean. The smaller, 10cm turtles will have a more difficult time of making it, but there isn’t necessarily the time to grow all the hatchlings to 18 cm.
The survival rate for turtles at sea is small. Sea turtles are captured in fish nets and die, and one huge problem for sea turtles is plastic pollution. The turtles eat jelly-fish, and often they ingest plastic bags mistaking them for food. This of course suffocates and kills them. Plastics in the ocean are a huge threat to the survival of sea turtles for this reason. Encounters with boats along coastal area as they come in to nest offers some dramatic challenges as well.
The loggerhead sea turtle has a low reproductive rate. The female will only lay an average of four clutches a year, with around 40 to 150 eggs at each nesting. Nests are routinely robbed by predators or humans, and if not, the hatching rate is only around 65%. Given the amount of turtles that hatch, a great many of them never see maturity, which takes about 17 years. Loggerheads have a lifespan of around 50 years.
The work and funding that it took to to gather all the 250+ eggs from several nest sites, raise and care for them them for 7 months is enormous, and the dedication of the groups involved in this will soon be rewarded.
Long beach has been chosen as the new protected beach for loggerhead to come back to and nest in the future. A previous years release was at busier beach but because of it’s crowds, the switch was made to Long Beach. With the energy and dedication exhibited in this effort, it seems a distinct possibility that loggerheads will come back here to nest. This is the hope of those involved, and hopefully it will happen!