Monday, December 17, 2012

HUGE Endangered Turtle Visits Zipolite

Blog post by Tina Winterlik © 2012!/zipolita @zipolita Google+

  So I screwed up tonight. I admit it. I feel really bad.  :(

Update: I found out she had laid her eggs, before, they came and got us. I feel so much better now!!

 Someone came and told us there was a huge turtle on the beach..and we rushed out to see it.

I didn't really know what was going on, at first I thought it was a dead turtle washed up on shore as we had seen that a few days before. But this was alive and I took photos, and I knew I probably should but others came and they took photos too! Apparently the flash is really bad. :(  I shouldn't have done it. Should have known better.
This photo shows you the size.

Photos by Tina Winterlik aka Zipolita © 2012

At first there was just a few of us but then alot of people came. The turtle was looking for a place to lay the eggs but everyone was too close and she got confused and well it was just sad.

Finally they coaxed her back into the sea with some lanterns.

Photos by Tina Winterlik aka Zipolita © 2012
 It's probably for the best, hopefully she'll lay her eggs on a quieter more isolated beach. She was huge though. I've never seen anything like it.

But now I know and I researched it and I'm telling you that this turtle - The Leatherback is CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.

Critically Endangered species are those that are either facing an extremely high risk of extinction, or have numbers which decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations

It means that within 3 generations it will decrease in number by 80%. And do you know why?  Because it likes to eat jellyfish. And plastic bags look like jellyfish.

 Here's some info from Wikipedia
The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), sometimes called the lute turtle, is the largest of all living turtles (as well as the largest extant sea turtle) and is the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodilians.[4][5] It is the only living species in the genus Dermochelys. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh. Dermochelys coriacea is the only extant member of the family Dermochelyidae.

Pacific subpopulation

Pacific leatherbacks divide into two populations. One population nests on beaches in Papua, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands and forage across the Pacific in the Northern Hemisphere, along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington in North America. The eastern Pacific population forages in the Southern Hemisphere, in waters along the western coast of South America, nesting in Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica.[26][34]

The continental United States offers two major leatherback feeding areas. One well-studied area is just off the northwestern coast near the mouth of the Columbia River. The other American area is located in the state of California.[34] Further north, off the Pacific coast of Canada, leatherbacks visit the beaches of British Columbia.[30]


Adult D. coriacea turtles subsist almost entirely on jellyfish.[6] Due to their obligate feeding nature, leatherback turtles help control jellyfish populations.[4] Leatherbacks also feed on other soft-bodied organisms, such as tunicates and cephalopods.[39]

Pacific leatherbacks migrate about 6,000 miles (9,700 km) across the Pacific from their nesting sites in Indonesia to eat California jellyfish. One cause for their endangered state is plastic bags floating in the ocean.  

Pacific leatherback sea turtles mistake these plastic bags for jellyfish; an estimated one third of adult leatherbacks have ingested plastic.[40] Plastic enters the oceans along the west coast of urban areas, where leatherbacks forage; with Californians using upwards of 19 billion plastic bags every year.[41]

 Several species of sea turtles commonly ingest plastic marine debris, and even small quantities of debris can kill sea turtles by obstructing their digestive tracts.[42

What to do if you see a 

* Stay clear and out of sight of the turtle until she begins laying eggs, otherwise you may scare her back into the sea.

    * For your safety, stay away from the turtle's head. Sea turtles, especially loggerheads, have very strong jaws and can harm you if provoked.

    * Do not handle the eggs or put any foreign objects into the nest. You can introduce bacteria or injure the eggs.

    * Do not handle or ride the sea turtle. In addition to being illegal, you may injure the turtle or cause her to leave without finishing nesting.

    * Do not disturb tracks left by turtles. Researchers sometimes use the tracks to identify the type of turtles that nested and to find and mark the nests.

    * Do enjoy the experience, and remember it for the rest of your life.

Qué hacer si ves una tortuga laúd

* Permanecer claro y fuera de la vista de la tortuga hasta que ella comienza a poner huevos, de lo contrario usted puede asustar su espalda en el mar.

Para la su seguridad, Manténgase alejado de la cabeza de la tortuga. Las tortugas marinas, especialmente enfrentados, tienen mandíbulas muy fuertes y pueden dañar si provocó.

•No manipule los huevos ni coloque objetos extraños en el nido. Puede introducir bacterias o lesionar a los huevos.

•No manipule o montar la tortuga. Además de ser ilegal, puede lesionar la tortuga o causar que dejara sin acabado de anidamiento.

•No no molestar pistas dejadas por las tortugas. Los investigadores utilizan a veces las pistas para identificar el tipo de tortugas que anidan y a buscar y marcar los nidos.

•No disfrutar de la experiencia y recuerdo para el resto de su vida.

More info from Wikipedia

Global initiatives

D. coriacea is listed on Appendix I of CITES, which makes export/import of this species (including parts) illegal.
Conserving Pacific and Eastern Atlantic populations was included among the top ten issues in turtle conservation in the first State of the World's Sea Turtles report published in 2006. The report noted significant declines in the Mexican, Costa Rican and Malaysian populations. The eastern Atlantic nesting population was threatened by increased fishing pressures from eastern South American countries.[70]
The Leatherback Trust was founded specifically to conserve sea turtles, specifically its namesake. The foundation established a sanctuary in Costa Rica, the Parque Marino Las Baulas.[71]

National and local initiatives

The leatherback sea turtle is subject to differing conservation laws in various countries.
The United States listed it as an endangered species on 2 June 1970. The passing of the Endangered Species Act three years later ratified its status.[72] In 2012 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated 41,914 square miles of Pacific Ocean along California, Oregon and Washington as "critical habitat."[73] In Canada, the Species At Risk Act made it illegal to exploit the species in Canadian waters. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada classified it as endangered.[30] Ireland and Wales initiated a joint leatherback conservation effort between Swansea University and University College Cork. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Irish Sea Leatherback Turtle Project focuses on research such as tagging and satellite tracking of individuals.[74]

So  please respect the turtles, don't get to close and don't take photos. I'm going to try and print up these notes and post them around so that people are more aware. 

We will be visiting the Mazunte Turtle Museo soon so we can see the changes they've made since 3 years ago, as we never saw it under construction. 

 I want to ask them why they don't put up pamphlets and give out more info so that the people of Zipolite have a better understanding of the turtles.