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Baby sea turtles get a second chance

May 14, 2015 | Latest Photo Prev Next
Baby sea turtle crawls to the edge of the waveBaby sea turtle crawls to the edge of the wavePhoto: David Silverman / Getty Images
May 14, 2015 | Latest Photo

Loggerhead sea turtles get a helping hand when nesting season comes around on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center works around the clock to ensure these little guys can make the journey from nest to sea, even going so far as to transfer nests under protection until the babies hatch.

Loggerhead sea turtles, like all sea turtles, nest on the beach. The loggerhead ranges from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean Sea. When nesting season comes around, the mother sea turtle will tirelessly dig a nest, lay her eggs, and then leave them to fate. With sea turtle populations declining around the Mediterranean and loggerheads being labeled with an Endangered IUCN status around the world, organizations like the Sea Turtle Rescue are doing their part to make sure that the odds are ever in these turtles' favor.

Ecologist carries baby sea turtle to oceanIsraeli ecologist Gil Ben Ezra carries a baby sea turtle to the ocean. (Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)

Once mother sea turtle has laid her eggs and returns to the ocean, marine biologists keep a close eye on the nest to determine whether it needs to be moved to a protected hatchery. These designated areas help fend off predators and ensure the nest is not bothered by beachgoers. From that point on, the biologists are committed to seeing it through.

Protected sea turtle nestIsraeli marine biologist Yani Levy uses a safe light to ensure baby turtles can still see as he retrieves them from their protected nest to deliver them safely to the sea. (Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)

Once the turtles begin to hatch, biologists make sure that none of the little ones are left behind. Sometimes things can get tricky in nests that are as deep as a foot and a half. In the case of the loggerhead turtles above, marine biologist Yani Levy waited three days to confirm that the seven baby sea turtles in the nest would not be able to make it out unassisted. In the early morning hours, retrieval means putting on a special light that doesn't impair the turtles' ability to see.

Baby sea turtle with sand on it If the sea turtles had not been rescued by hand by the ecologist, they would have remained trapped in the nest. (Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)

Stragglers get an extra hand, quite literally. Trained ecologists gently pick up the sea turtles and carry them to the edge of the sea.

Biologist blows sand off baby sea turtleIsraeli marine biologist Yani Levy gently blows off the sand from a baby loggerhead sea turtle, after it emerged from its protected nest. (Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

With meticulous care, the biologists primp and prep the turtles for their long journey.

Two baby loggerhead sea turtles crawl through sandTwo baby loggerhead sea turtles make their way across the sand to start their journey in the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)

Once the sea turtles are ready to make their way into the ocean, the biologists step back and let nature take control. The race to the Mediterranean is on! Once the sea turtles grow up, they will stick around the coast of Israel, especially attracted to the coral reef in the Red Sea. Even in adulthood, they can count on the rescue center to be there in the event of an emergency – like when the rescue center crafted a special prosthetic fin for a green sea turtle named Hofesh.

The sea turtle rescue center is specialized in sea turtle conservation, with innovative tools and trained marine biologists. But you don't have to have all of that in order to do your part for sea turtles. Here are a few tips for helping these endangered species next time you go to the beach:

  • If you visit the beach during nesting season, don't shine lights on the beach, use flash photography, or light any camp fires.
  • The clearer the beach the better – don't leave anything on the sand that might discourage female sea turtles from nesting.
  • If you are diving near a coral reef, do not anchor your boat to the coral reef – it's the sea turtle's main source of food. Would you like it if someone messed with your lunch?
  • Stay back. If you see a sea turtle or its nest, do not interact with it. If you see turtle tracks, leave them be.
  • Do your part to recycle and dispose of your trash and any trash you find on the beach! Sea turtles are hungry little guys and will eat whatever they think might be food.

Even when you're not at the beach, your decisions matter. Recycling plastic and reducing your use of chemicals in and outside of your home can make a difference for the marine ecosystem – even from miles away. And you can always volunteer!

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Related Topics: Animals