Leatherback Turtles continue to fight for survival – Jake D

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Conservation, News
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As many as 20,000 Leatherback turtle hatchlings and eggs have been destroyed in a disastrous industrial accident on the banks of the Grand Riviere in Trinidad. Government construction employees were attempting to divert the flow of the Grand Riviere River which has been threatening the foundations of the local Mt. Plasir estate hotel. The hotel has been a traditional meeting place for tourists coming to observe the nesting rituals of the leatherbacks on the sandy banks nearby for decades.

Leatherback Turtles are the largest turtles in the world, known to grow to a massive seven feet long and to weigh as much as nine hundred kilograms. Their evolutionary ancestry is traceable back over 90 million years. Unlike their sea turtle cousins, they have developed a soft, malleable shell, which is described as being rubbery in texture, yet still durable enough to provide protection (hence their name Leatherback).

The Leatherback is currently registered as an endangered species, and with good reason. The global population is declining alarmingly despite the best efforts of various conservation groups and animal welfare minded governments. One of the most prevalent threats to this majestic creature is the pollution of water bodies, namely the discarding of various plastic products. The turtles routinely mistake plastic floating in the water for their primary source of food, jellyfish. Ingesting plastic is generally fatal to the animals and accounts for a huge percentage of avoidable fatalities.

The approach of the work crews to the procedure, in Trinidad, has been widely criticized for the lack of forethought and consideration. It is understood that a far larger portion of the beach was crushed than was necessary by bulldozers and other industrial equipment, uprooting the defenseless eggs and hatchlings in the process. According to eyewitness reports many of the hatchlings were killed by hungry packs of stray dogs and opportunistic vultures that sensed an easy meal.Onlookers who had come to the Grand Riviere to witness the nesting rituals of a rare and beautiful species instead were treated to the aforementioned grisly spectacle.

Ironically Trinidad has been a progressive and civic minded nation when it comes to the conservation of leatherback turtles, banning the killing of the creature way back in 1966. Native conservation groups have also aided in the efforts to maintain the turtle numbers by protecting the numerous nesting grounds and raising awareness of the how vulnerable the leatherback turtle really is.The Trinidad department of works has issued a statement which places culpability on the shoulders of the workers themselves, claiming that after the initial logistic error the crews panicked and made a bad situation worse.

Wherever the blame lies one thing is for certain, the leatherback turtle continues to suffer in the wake of human carelessness.




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