Endangered Species

Conserving Turtles

It seems that conservation plans for endangered species should always have a Plan B.  It’s not safe to rely on the ecosystem area remaining intact.  Looking at the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, having a Plan B to put into motion as soon as the oil spill started, would have been great.

Kemp ridley turtleNews reports the other day mentioned finding 20 dead endangered turtles along the shoreline.  These included some Kemp’s Ridley Turtles, which the World Wildlife Fund says are the most endangered turtles/tortoises.  The species has a restricted range and lives only in the Gulf of Mexico.

The WWF website  mentions the threat of shrimp trawling.  Then they ominously add that the “juvenile population of the Kemp’s Ridley is also threatened by pollution in the Gulf of Mexico around the mouths of the Alabama and Mississippi rivers, important development habitats for these animals”.  The shallow sand and mud in the estuaries are the turtle’s favorite habitat.

The US and Mexico have been conserving the Kemp’s Ridley Turtles since the nesting beach of Rancho Nuevo was declared a National Reserve.  They’ve had some success, and recently there were as many as 1,000 turtles.

baby turtlesApart from sporadic nesting elsewhere, nesting takes place only on one 20 km beach at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico on the Gulf of Mexico.  Luckily, that’s not where the oil is heading.

Nesting season is from April through July.  So the females are probably there now, hopefully safely.  However, WWF reports that an unusual feature of this species is that the males appear to be non-migratory.  So they are likely to be where the oil is expanding.  A worst case scenario is that the adult males will be wiped out – and all the male Kemp’s Ridley turtles of the next few years are currently being born on the beach in Mexico.  This leads me to ask if maybe some of the baby turtles should be captured and held until it’s safe for them to go to the Mississippi area.  That would be a good Plan B.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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