This is a guest post from our intern, Katie Tehan.
In honor of the special day, I thought it might be fitting to celebrate one of our world’s oldest creatures. If you’ve ever had the fortune of seeing a sea turtle in its natural habitat, then you will understand why it is important that we stick our necks out to protect them.
It was not until after I got the chance to volunteer in a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center in Topsail, North Carolina that the severity of the risks facing them became a reality for me.
The hospital is run completely on a volunteer basis, and at the time was nursing 26 sea turtles that had been victims of hypothermia, pneumonia, bycatch, shark attacks, or boating incidents. One sea turtle in particular, named Riptide, swallowed a large fishing hook, which was trapped in his throat, making it impossible to eat. After surgery, Riptide made a full recovery and was released. Sadly, many of the other sea turtles at the hospital would not be able to survive in the ocean, and will spend the rest of their lives in tanks.
Did you know global warming greatly impacts sea turtle development? Studies show that global warming has resulted in decreased hatching rates, and could possibly lead to complete nest failure. And here’s an interesting fact: Increased sand temperatures alter the natural sex ratio of sea turtles, creating more females. In addition, young sea turtles rely on currents to locate prey, but climate change has begun to influence migratory species adding difficulty to their survival. Birds, ghost crabs, and fish are just a few of the predators newly born sea turtles face which is why some scientists estimate only one hatchling out of 1,000 will make it to adulthood.
As summer approaches, sea turtles begin making nests on various beaches throughout the world. As a part of the upcoming nesting season, it is important that we make an effort to keep our coasts clean and protect the fragile nests. You can join the effort to protect sea turtles by always picking up your trash before leaving the beach and turning off beachfront lighting that can interfere with the sea turtles’ path toward the natural light of the ocean horizon. Go even further by taking Ocean Conservancy’s 30 Day Trash-Free Challenge to help us stop trash before it starts.
If you’re interested in volunteering for a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center, learn more here.