Along with the likes of the giant Panda, Polar Bear, Rhino, Elephant, Tiger and a whole host of others, Turtles gain a lot of attention in the conservation world. We're so used to seeing pictures of them caught in nets these days that it's hard to believe that conservation for the humble turtle is actually making progress. But it is making progress, and here are a few examples of how.
One small change that is quite personal to us here in the U.K is the charging for plastic bags at the supermarket. Most people took it as a personal offence when bags inflated to the extortionate price of 5p. However, all manner of sea life benefits from this small change as an awful lot of our plastic carrier bags end up in the ocean causing pollution and feeding problems for a plethora of sea life. The founder of The Ocean Cleanup is even quotable for saying that part of his inspiration for wanting to clean the oceans came when he was diving in Greece and found more plastic bags than fish. A sobering thought. Specifically for turtles, this small change helps their life cycle as, in theory at least, less carrier bags should make their way into the ecosystem, causing harm to less turtles that eat them, believing them to be jellyfish. Jellyfish are a turtle's staple food, and a floating carrier bag in mid-depth looks deceptively like a jellyfish to a passing turtle. So that's one slice of progress.
Turtles receive a huge amount of help globally to ensure their habitats and indeed habits are preserved. Efforts ranging from tagging and monitoring turtles to understand migration, breeding and feeding better, to simply cleaning up the beaches on which turtles lay their eggs. Turtle conservation also has legal protection in a number of countries, including the U.S, to ensure that their current population state isn't degraded further. The responsibility is also on local people who live in proximity to these turtles to be aware of their presence and ensure their habitats are looked after. Many pacific nations have or are adapting their fishing methods to help prevent collateral damage to turtles and other marine wildlife.
Many main global organisations, such as WWF, have been relentless in their attempts to preserve the world's turtles. Given the high profile of turtles internationally, they attract plenty of attention from conservation and volunteering groups, providing hands on help to turtles as well as research for helping the many species long term.
Frontier is such an organisation. We run projects in multiple countries worldwide which take part in important turtle conservation and research. One project in Greece works to protect the nesting sites of Loggerhead turtles. It involves daily monitoring and research of the turtles to help provide a safer breeding environment.
Another risk to turtle populations is traced back to the changing climate. Turtle eggs are incubated in the sand before hatching and research has shown that during this developing stage, the heat the egg is exposed to directly controls the gender of the baby turtle when it hatches. The warmer the climate, the more likely it is for that turtle to be female. With an ever warming atmosphere and weather, the number of turtles born female has increased. In the long run, this would be devastating for the species when there aren't enough males to breed to continue the cycle.
As a result, efforts are in place to control the incubation period of the eggs to moderate the numbers of males and females which are born, before releasing them into the wild. In this way, conservationists can add to the stability of the species in a controlled way.
Of the seven species of sea turtle, six are listed as endangered. That's a shocking ratio. As a result, conservation is growing in importance. Due to the fact that people caused most of the problems to begin with, people have somewhat of a responsibility to help right the wrong.
A great way to get involved in turtle conservation is volunteering; follow the link to find out more about Frontier's Turtle Conservation Projects.
By Guy Bezant - Online Journalism Intern
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