Amid the ongoing disaster of the Gulf oil spill and the unspeakable violence happening in parts of Mexico, an astonishing natural wonder dating back thousands of years is happening on some Mexican coasts — the annual “arribadas” of Olive ridley sea turtles.
Described by scientists as “one of the most unique synchronized nesting habits in the natural world,” the “arribada” is breathtaking to see – turtles arriving in waves of hundreds on a single day. They face the usual threats of sea turtles trying to nest on beaches near humans – turtles harrassed and harmed, and eggs taken.
WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, an organization helping locals protect the turtles, gives us the Ixtapilla beach story in excerpts from this article — (translation from Spanish via GoogleTranslate, so a bit rough -bold text is added by us):
(Ixtapilla, Michoacán) “This is one of 12 beaches in the world that records massive arrival of sea turtles…
WiLDCOAST, the Canada Fund, CONANP and Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, have formed an alliance to support the efforts of the Nahua community of Ixtapilla in protecting this endangered species.
“This phenomenon is recorded only during the rainy season on three Mexican Pacific beaches that do not cover more than Continue reading “Olive ridley turtle “arribada” in Mexico”
As The Baltimore Sun’s Candus Thomson notes, all five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are listed under the Endangered Species Act (this was pre-oil leak). We’re looking at fast facts about these species – this week, it’s the Hawksbill:
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
- listed by US as a critically endangered species since 1970
- average adult size is 2 1/2 feet and 95 to 165 pounds
- adults feed mostly on sponges and other invertebrates
- can live to be roughly 50 years old
- named for unique hooked beak
- females nest April through November, and typically not in groups
- females can nest faster than any other sea turtles – can complete the entire process in less than 45 minutes
- primary nesting areas in the US are in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Florida’s SE coast and the Keys
- global populations have declined 80% or more in past century
The Hawksbill sea turtle’s dramatic population decline is due to a variety of causes – habitat degradation, artificial lighting along beaches, marine pollution and debris, incidental take by commercial fishing operations, egg collection and hunting of adults for meat.
Another significant factor in the Hawksbills’ decline is trade in their lovely carapaces – primarily for “tortoiseshell” jewelry.
Legal trade in Hawksbill shell trade ended when Japan agreed to stop importing shell in 1993, but a significant illegal trade continues. Trade in Hawksbills and products made from them is prohibited by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Photo credits: Top photo courtesy Thomas Doeppner; bottom photo by Caroline Rogers, USGS