Every year the second graders at our elementary school get to pick a sea animal to study. This year, my second grader chose the sea turtle. He spent a great deal of time learning about sea turtles, and was eager to find his newly beloved animal on a recent vacation and when we visited the aquarium.
This Saturday, May 23rd, is Turtle Day, meant to encourage people around the world to discover turtles and tortoises, and learn how to help protect and conserve these very important creatures. Believe it or not, sea turtles have existed on Earth and in our seas for 100 million years. They have major cultural significance and tourism value, maintaining the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs. However, between climate change, being sought for human consumption, or dying due to climate change, pollution, or accidental capture in fishing gear, nearly all species of sea turtle are endangered – and it is largely due to human activities.
We can stop the damage, however. You don’t have to be a marine biologist to conserve sea turtles. So hopefully his has peaked your curiosity, and now you may want to know. What can you do to help save sea turtles?
– Beaches are the nesting sites for loggerheads and other sea turtles, so keeping beaches clean is vital to their protection. When you visit the beach, make a concerted effort to not leave any trash there, and to remove trash you find that has been left by others. Especially important is the removal of any and all plastic bags. To sea turtles, bags in the ocean look like delicious floating jellyfish. Once the bag is ingested, the turtle will die. Also important is to limit BPA use and pollution, A recent study determined that BPA, which mimics estrogen, can alter a turtle’s reproductive system, potentially inhibiting their ability to reproduce.
– Participate in habitat restoration events aimed at improving the cleanliness of local beaches. Don’t live near a beach? Then go online and make a donation to a habitat restoration event.
– Avoid walking on the sandy dunes above the tide line, because that is where you might not see (and inadvertently destroy) a turtle nest.
– When you are at the beach or on a boat, avoid unnecessary lighting at night. If the moon is the only light present, it will guide the baby turtles (the hatchlings) to the sea after birth.
– If you see a turtle coming ashore to nest at night, observe and enjoy from a distance, but do not approach the turtle. It may be on its way to nest, or to visit the nest. And please do not take a photo of it using a camera flash.
– Report any injured or dead turtles you might see to local wildlife conservation. Never remove injured or deceased turtles or tortoises from the wild on your own.
– If a turtle loses its way and ends up in a busy area or on a busy street, experts suggest gently picking it up to avoid being killed. Make sure to send it in the same direction it was going though, because apparently if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again. Those turtles sure are stubborn sometimes!
– Don’t buy a turtle or tortoise as a pet because doing so increases demand of them being removed from their natural habitat.
– Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches, as it is illegal in the United States. Along the same lines, report any cruelty turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
– Limit fish consumption. When the demand for fish consumption declines, there will be fewer commercial fishing boats on the waters, accidentally trapping and killing turtles.
– When traveling, look for eco-friendly hotels and resorts, as they will be more inclined to reduce, reuse, recycle, and clean up trash left around the area so that it does not harm turtles, tortoises or other sea life.
– Get involved by writing to legislators asking them to keep beaches and habitat areas preserved or closed off to vehicles. Off shore drilling can also lead to more endangered sea turtle deaths, so you can request a stop to that as well.
– Support the organizations and retailers that give back to turtle research and conservation. For example, Save the Turtles Inc, is a non-profit organization devoted to protecting endangered sea turtles. When you purchase their designs from Pure Vida bracelet, all net proceeds go towards saving sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings in critical habitat areas. Additionally, $3 from every purchase of this Pure Vida bracelet will go to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and $6 from this Sea Turtle pack of bracelets.
– Adopt a sea turtle. Figuratively, that is, of course. Through the World Wildlife Fund, you can support WWF’s efforts to conserve turtles around the world by giving someone you love a Sea Turtle adoption kit. http://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Sea-Turtle.aspx
Let’s do what we can to save one of the oldest creatures in our ecosystem. They sure do deserve our attention and care. For more information, visit http://www.worldwildlife.org, http://www.saveturtles.org, http://www.conserveturtles.org, or http://www.savetheseaturtle.org.
Happy Turtle Day!
Photo credits: © Adrx, and @nizami
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