Florida, which took the brunt of the storm, is a centre for sea turtles, including the endangered leatherback, loggerheads and green turtles. (The northwest Atlantic region is one of the loggerhead’s nesting areas and 89 percent of these turtles are hatched in Florida.)
Sea turtles take twenty-five to thirty years to reach reproductive age and, when ready, lay their eggs in the open beach under vegetation or at the base of the dune; the hurricane eroded key nesting areas, washing away the nests or flooding them with seawater or rainwater. But there are other perils too.
Around 5,000 sea turtles are living in captivity in the Cayman Islands, squashed together, diseased or bred for meat and tourist entertainment. Tourists visit the Cayman Turtle Centre for the opportunity to take a ‘sea turtle selfie’ – blissfully unaware of the abuse and suffering involved.
Crushed together in shallow tanks, the natural solitary sea turtles are so stressed that they can turn against each other, biting and maiming. Surely the Centre must provide a proper sea turtle rehabilitation and release facility, to protect the turtles in care?
The turtles are also threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
Many scientists are doing their best to highlight the sorry plight of these wonderful animals but more, much more, needs to be done.
Aimee, Year 6