Moonlight Walks on the Beach Can Be Perilous (For Sea Turtles, That Is)


A loggerhead turtle in an aquarium. Photo by ukanda via Flickr.
Australia isn't the only place experiencing an outbreak of the "awwww"s as awkwardly adorable baby sea turtles start to hatch and make their way to the sea. Beaches around the Turkish city of Mersin are seeing a 50 increase in turtle populations over previous years -- and it may not be too late for volunteers in the Mediterranean region to help nudge more of the little guys to safety.Nearly 600 loggerhead turtles recently hatched on the Davultepe 100 Year Beach in Mezitli, near Mersin, one of the 21 reproduction areas in Turkey for the protected critters. Mersin has four such areas, on which more than 3,000 turtles have been observed this year -- a significant increase over the approximately 2,000 seen in previous years.

Turtle Numbers on the Rise in Cyprus
Likewise, the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus reported a jump in the number of loggerhead and green turtle nests last year. Student volunteers from all over Europe have been coming to the northern part of the island since 1992 to help the Marine Turtle Research Group keep an eye on turtle nesting activity through night-time and dawn beach surveys. A relative lack of tourism in northern Cyprus has been a boon to turtle populations, which are threatened by development and beach erosion, as well as predators, marine trash, and getting caught in fishing nets. An active forum on turtle watching provides information on observing and helping out with the hatching there.

In Turkey, the local chapter of WWF, one of the organizations that helped get nesting sites protected in the first place, is leading its own turtle conservation efforts at Akyatan lagoon, an important green-turtle nesting beach that is suffering the effects of pollution. Volunteers camp in tents along the beach throughout the summer, mark turtle nests, and help new hatchlings find their way to the ocean.

Volunteer Opportunities in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET) has a helpful website, EuroTurtle.org, that lists volunteer opportunities in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Turkey. While many organizations seek a commitment for the whole summer, or at least multiple weeks, regular vacation-goers can help out in between catching rays.

MEDASSET recommends being sure to pack all your garbage out from the beach and avoiding patronizing "restaurants, bars, or hotels that have lights on the beach" (as artificial lights can lead baby turtles fatally astray from the water) or walking on the beach at night in areas where turtles may be nesting. Sure, that may put a bit of a damper on the vacation romance, but isn't that pointy, wrinkly little face worth it?

More about sea turtles:
Adopt a Sea Turtle!
Gadget for Fishing Nets Could Save Sea Turtles, or Could Be Useless Junk
Think Mom's the Best? Share Her With a Sea Turtle
An Instance When Man-Made Fibers Help a Sea Turtle Out
Sick Turtle Checks Self Into Hospital
Sea Turtle Cam Reveals Surprising Food Choice (Video)
Endangered Sea Turtles Face Death by a Thousand Hooks
Thousands of Sea Turtles Dead in Baja
Turtle-Oriented Eco-Tourism Springs Up in Central America
The Great Turtle Race

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Oceans | Turkey | Turtles

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