Good green turtle news from Ascension island


This video is called Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Eating.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife reaps huge benefits from Ascension Island’s new conservation legislation

The remote UK overseas territory of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, has achieved remarkable results in conserving its green turtle populations.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department report that the number of green turtles nesting has increased by more than 500 per cent since records began in the 1970s.

As many as 24,000 nests are now estimated to be laid on the island’s main beaches every year, making it the second largest nesting colony for this species in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a paper in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

Lead author Dr Sam Weber said: “The increase has been dramatic. Whereas in the 1970s and 80s you would have been lucky to find 30 turtles on the island’s main nesting beach on any night, in 2013 we had more than 400 females nesting in a single evening.”

The Ascension Island’s government has announced that it is committing a fifth of the territory’s land area to biodiversity conservation.

New legislation enacted by the island’s governor, Mark Capes, has created seven new nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that include the island’s three main turtle nesting beaches, along with globally important seabird colonies that are home to more than 800,000 nesting seabirds.

The legislation was developed as a result of a two-year project run by the Ascension Island Government and the University of Exeter to develop a national biodiversity action plan for the territory.

Dr Nicola Weber, Ascension Island Government’s Head of Conservation, said: “The decision to give legal protection to our most iconic wildlife sites follows extensive public consultation and has received a high level of support from across of the community.

“It speaks volumes as to how seriously environmental stewardship is currently taken on the Island”.

Dr Annette Broderick, who is leading the project for the University of Exeter and who has been researching sea turtles on Ascension Island for the past 15 years, said: “Green turtles were an important source of food for those on the island and passing ships would take live turtles onboard to ensure fresh meat for their voyage.

“Ships returning to the UK would stock up with turtles for the Lords of the Admiralty, who had a penchant for turtle soup.

“Records show a dramatic decline in the number of turtles harvested each year as fewer and fewer came to nest and since the 1950s no turtles have been harvested.

“We are now seeing the population bounce back, although our models suggest we have not yet reached pre-harvest levels.”

Turtles were legally protected on Ascension Island in 1944 and the population began its slow climb back.

“Because sea turtles take so long to reach breeding age, we are only now beginning to see the results of conservation measures introduced decades ago,” said Dr Weber.

“It just goes to show how populations of large, marine animals can recover from human exploitation if we protect them over long enough periods.”

See also here. And here.

This video is called Conservation on Ascension.

Diver saves sea turtle, video


This video says about itself:

3 July 2014

Divers off the coast of Mexico save a sea turtle that became tangled in rope.

Special thanks to Colin Sutton & Cameron Dietrich who freed the turtle and shared their footage with us.

By Cate Matthews in the USA about this:

Diver Saves Sea Turtle And Receives Adorable Thank You (VIDEO)

07/14/2014 11:59 pm EDT

Not every story about sea life mistakenly caught in a net ends this beautifully, so it’s important to recognize when one does.

According to Dominican Republic social news site Lifestyle Cabarete, dive partners Cameron Dietrich and Colin Sutton were out spearfishing for tuna off the coast of Mexico earlier this year when Dietrich noticed something was not quite right. A sea turtle had been caught in the line.

Dietrich immediately jumped in to save the turtle, working quickly to remove the mess of ropes around its left flipper. Sutton followed close behind, his GoPro camera on and ready to capture the rescue.

The turtle swam away once freed, but then, to the two divers’ surprise, it circled back to Dietrich. For an incredible, breathtaking moment it rested inches above him in the water, close enough for Dietrich to reach out and hold it. It was almost as if the sea turtle was saying thank you.

The World Wildlife Fund names human fishing gear as the single greatest threat to sea turtles worldwide, so the fact that Dietrich and Sutton dived in means something. Most species of sea turtles are endangered, and it’s going to take everyone, from recreational spearfishers to commercial fisheries, to move them back from the red.

And with any luck, that means we’ll get more moments like this.

Turtle, shark migration from Costa Rica to Ecuador


This is called Sea Turtle Migration Video.

From Wildlife Extra:

First evidence of an important marine migration corridor between Costa Rica and Ecuador

Sanjay, a 53k (117lb) male endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), recently made history when he completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Sanjay is the first turtle to directly link these two protected marine areas, proving the connectivity of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as well as highlighting the importance of protecting migration routes.

“It’s truly remarkable,” said Alex Hearn, conservation science director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California.

“Sanjay knew where he was headed, and made a beeline from one marine protected area to the next.

“These protected areas of ocean are hot spots for endangered green sea turtles, but we also need to think about their migratory corridors between protected areas.”

Sanjay was one of three green sea turtles tagged at Cocos Island in June during a joint 10-day research expedition by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and Programa Testauracion de Tiburones y Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA) of Costa Rica.

Since 2009, the two organisations have tagged over 100 turtles and several species of sharks in a programme to understand how endangered turtles and sharks use the Cocos Island and Galapagos National Parks marine protected areas, and to see if their is biological connectivity between those new sanctuaries.

Sanjay is the first turtle to have been documented moving between these two marine protected areas and joins several hammerhead sharks, a silky shark and a Galapagos shark that have spent time at both of these reserves.

“Finally seeing a turtle move from Cocos Island directly to Galapagos is absolutely amazing,” said Maike Heidemeyer from PRETOMA. “Especially because preliminary genetic research results suggest that there is a connection between the green turtles at Cocos Island and the Galapagos.”

Green sea turtles, like Sanjay, play an important role in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ecosystem, but little is known about the geographic distribution of juveniles and males, despite the fact that nesting sites for female turtles have been identified in the Galapagos, mainland Mexico and Revillagigedo Islands, as well in the Northern Pacific of Costa Rica.

At Cocos Island, two different populations of turtles occur: the black-to gray coloured Eastern Pacific green turtles (also known as “black turtles”) and Western Pacific populations. Both populations are considered by some to be subspecies, but there is no official taxonomic division.

“These species are protected while they are in the reserves, but as soon as they swim beyond the no-fishing zone, they are being hammered by industrial fishing vessels that set millions of hooks in the region,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island, biologist and co-primary investigator of the Cocos research programme.

“Our goal is to collect the necessary scientific data to understand the migratory routes and advocate for ‘swimways’ to protect these endangered species throughout their migration.”

“The route that Sanjay followed is riddled with longline fishing gear,” said Randall Arauz of PRETOMA.

“Several international initiatives exist to improve marine conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and its time for these initiatives to translate into direct actions that ultimately protect these turtles from unsustainable fishing practices.”

Satellite, acoustic and genetic information is currently being analysed and will be officially published later in the year.

Sea turtle Sanjay is on the move again, the latest ping suggests that he is headed to green sea turtle nesting grounds at Isabela Island.

Sanjay’s migration track can be seen on this map.

Researchers have tracked a green turtle migrating nearly 4000 kilometers from its home. That’s a record breaker for the species, but it’s bad news for some marine protected areas (MPAs). Such zones are off-limits to fishing, yet they may not be keeping these turtles—and other highly migratory animals—safe, according to a new study: here.

Baby frog and turtle photos


Baby common frog, June 2014

Thanks to Lizia, after her earlier baby common frog photos, another baby common frog photo from a bank near the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, the Netherlands, made earlier this June.

Red-eared slider turtle, June 2014

And this photo of a feral red-eared slider turtle there, feeding.

World Turtle Day today


This video says about itself:

May 23rd is World Turtle Day! Watch Water Turtle Boogie.

From Greenpeace UK:

In pictures: Turtally devoted to you: Happy World Turtle Day

Posted by Angela Glienicke – 23 May 2014 at 12:10am

Today is World Turtle Day, a great opportunity to celebrate some of the world’s oldest creatures as well as draw attention to the sea turtles‘ plight. Terrific turtles have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years, but now face many dangers as they travel the seas.

When I look at Alex Hofford’s powerful picture of a loggerhead turtle swimming around a purse seiner’s fish aggre[g]ation device and Sumer Verma’s photo of a trapped turtle in a fishnet I’m once again reminded why we need to campaign for marine reserves and protect these gentle animals from unsustainable fishing methods.

So join me in sending an SOS to the world’s leaders to support ocean sanctuaries and protect all marine life. Let’s ensure these awsome animals continue to roam our seas!

The turtle photos are here.

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Good Australian flatback turtle news


This video says about itself:

23 December 2009

Flatback Turtle hatching out of the egg shell. Taken at Flinders Beach, Mapoon, Queensland, Australia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Australia’s new marine parks are a boon for flatback turtles

The value of Australia’s newly established network of marine parks has been highlighted by an international project that used satellites to track the vulnerable flatback sea turtle.

A valuable migration corridor of more than 1,000km in length, tens of kilometres in width and tens of kilometres from the mainland, has been identified by researchers tracking 70 flatback sea turtles by satellite. Tracking devices were attached to the turtles’ soft shells using a flexible harness that detached after about 12 months. A signal depicting the turtle’s position was transmitted in real-time every 10 to 15 minutes as the turtles surfaced to breath, to a constellation of satellites known as the ‘Argos system’.

Encouragingly, the scientists found that about half of this important corridor falls within Australia’s new network of marine reserves, according to findings published in the journal Marine Biology.

“Our findings show that much of the flatback turtle’s transit passage – between its breeding colonies and foraging grounds – falls within the newly established Commonwealth Marine Reserve network,” said animal movement expert Professor Graeme Hays from Deakin University in Australia, co-author of the study.

These findings will help refine ongoing conservation planning along the Australian coast to protect this wide-ranging turtle species. The study will also help identify high-use areas outside the existing reserve network.

Being so close to the mainland, the flatback and other marine species in the area may be susceptible to accidental mortality, such as collision with vessels and fishery bycatch. The research also highlights how whales, sharks and turtles share a common migration corridor, something that was previously unknown.

“The network of Australian marine reserves may also serve as a template for marine conservation elsewhere in the world,” said Hays. “In recognition of the plight of the vulnerable flatback turtle, long-term conservation research programmes are being developed to help protect this iconic species.”

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Alligator snapping turtles, not one species but three


This video from Tennessee in the USA is called Wild SideTV-Alligator Snapping Turtles.

From Wildlife Extra:

The alligator snapping turtle is not one species but three

The threatened alligator snapping turtle is not just one species but three, scientists from Florida and the University of Vermont have discovered.

By examining museum specimens and wild turtles, the scientists uncovered deep evolutionary divisions in this ancient reptile that caused them to split into different species millions years ago.

“We found a surprising result: these really deep divisions between each river,” says Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont. “Unlike common snappers, these turtles do not move from river to river; they’re isolated and have been for millions of years, through many glacial ages.”

The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle is found in Florida and Georgia, and lives only in the Suwannee River and, say the scientists, has been a distinct species for at least five million years. The Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle lives in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama — in and around the Apalachicola River — and developed as an independent species at least three million years ago. While turtles from the Apalachicola and other panhandle rivers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama are now the Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle.

The scientists have notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the discovery and that federal protection is urgently needed to protect these turtles, who face threats from water pollution and over-collection for food and the pet trade.

“This new study shows the extremely rare alligator snapping turtle is even rarer than we thought,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer focused on protecting reptiles and amphibians. “If we don’t act quickly to protect these dinosaurs of the turtle world, they, too, could go extinct.”

Alligator snapping turtles are the largest river turtles in North America, weighing in at up to 200 pounds and living almost a century.

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Curaçao sea turtle conservation


This video is about a sea turtle swimming near Curaçao.

From the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA):

Six species of sea turtles are found in the waters surrounding the Dutch Caribbean islands with regular nesting activity occurring annually on the sandy beaches of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. Because sea turtles undertake remarkably long transboundary migrations and because they are slow to reach sexual maturity (20 – 30 years), they require significant international cooperation and long-term monitoring in order to best understand their population trends.

Once amazingly abundant, Caribbean sea turtles have seen a rapid decline since the time of European expansion in the Americas. Scientists estimate that in the 1600s, over 90 million Green Turtles were present the Caribbean seas. Today the number is estimated at a mere 300,000. Hawksbills have plunged 99.7% from 11 million to 30,000. Fishing gear entanglement, illegal harvesting, coastal development, marine pollution and climate change still remain serious threats to the recovery of global sea turtle populations.

Having been involved with sea turtle conservation for more than two decades, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has gained important knowledge and understanding not only of sea turtles ecology and biology, but also of best practices for conducting scientific research. STCB staff and volunteers are well-experienced in catching, measuring and weighing the animals while causing the least amount of stress, they know when and where to do beach patrols and they know how best to protect sea turtle nests.

After becoming an established organisation on Bonaire and widely respected within the regional sea turtle conservation community, STCB is actively sharing its knowledge in an attempt to strengthen and support sea turtle monitoring and conservation efforts on the other Dutch Caribbean islands. In addition to leading workshops on Bonaire with several visiting island conservation organisations, STCB recently visited St. Maarten to conduct an assessment of potential sea turtle feeding areas, providing important information to support the St. Maarten Nature Foundation in implementing appropriate and effective in-water monitoring efforts.

On Curaçao, 2013 brought increased sea turtle conservation and protection on the island with the establishment of four new Ramsar sites and the legal ban on destructive gillnet practices, which will come into effect in May 2014. Additionally, a dialogue between STCB and CARMABI began with the idea of developing and implementing a sea turtle nest monitoring programme on Curaçao using Bonaire as a model. In February 2014, Curaçao has officially taken the next step in the protection of the island’s charismatic and threatened sea turtles. Recent discussions between the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC), the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, STCB, the Curaçaoan Ministry of Health, Environment and Nature and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as CARMABI and Uniek Curaçao have led to a collaborative agreement to develop a monitoring programme to asses the health and status of Curaçao’s sea turtle populations. The aim is to initiate a beach patrol programme to monitor nesting activity of sea turtles on the Shete Boka beaches throughout the nesting season (May – December) and perform head count surveys of feeding sea turtles in one of the key feeding areas on Curaçao – Boka Ascension. The data collected will not only be used to determine the presence and species composition of sea turtles in Curaçao and identify trends over time, but will also contribute to a regional dataset that monitors Caribbean-wide sea turtle population trends and will allow Curaçao to properly manage this precious endangered species.

To learn more about or get involved with sea turtle conservation on Curaçao, contact the Ministry of Health, Environment and Nature, CARMABI or Uniek Curaçao.

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Saving Galapagos giant tortoises


This video is called Giant Galapagos Tortoise (extreme closeup!)

From Wired:

Inside the Galapagos Islands’ Giant Tortoise Rehab Effort

By Jeffrey Marlow

04.16.14

10:24 am

You’re sailing from the Spice Islands across the open ocean to the South American port of Guayaquil, your financial motives rooted somewhere along a broad spectrum of morality and lawfulness. Several months have passed, and food stores and morale are low. Fortunately, you know a spot that will save the day, a cluster of rocky islands jutting out of the east Pacific near the equator.

For centuries, the Galapagos Islands have been a convenience store for ocean-going journeys, the resident Giant Tortoises serving as the perfect solution to the constant challenge of acquiring fresh meat at sea. These enormous beasts could handle the rigors of shipboard life and could be harvested at any time. Ships throughout the 18th-20th centuries would stop at the Galapagos, herd dozens of tortoises onto the decks, and sail off, assured of a reliable protein source for the remainder of their journey. At one point, an American whaling vessel lost track of a captive tortoise, which ambled out of the hold two and a half years later in Nantucket. Befuddled onlookers promptly killed it and made a stew.

And so, slowly but surely, the Giant Tortoise population was decimated. By the mid-1900s, conservationists began to recognize the problem, just as the increasing rate of international tourism and commerce was introducing another mortal threat to the species.

This one came in the form of fire ants, a voracious invasive species with a taste for baby tortoise. “Within 20 minutes of hatching,” says naturalist Ernesto Vaca, “they swarm and make the baby tortoise disappear.” Other human-transported pests, like rats, dogs, and cats, have developed similar dietary proclivities. With the species now facing a genuine threat to its survival, the Centro de Crianza was founded on Isabela Island, and conservationists went into crisis mode, airlifting tortoises with helicopters and initiating a breeding program.

It took a while to develop effective breeding techniques, but today, the Centro boasts a near-perfect success rate from egg to teenage tortoise. The rescue program continues in full force, as the habitat surrounding Isabela Island’s many dome-shaped volcanoes have been deemed unsafe for tortoises because of the fire ant threat. Employees and volunteers venture into the dense forest to retrieve tortoise eggs, which are then placed into computer-controlled incubators back at the Centro. The sex of the fledglings is determined by egg incubation temperature – above 37.5 °C leads to females, below produces males – allowing the Centro to generate its ideal ratio of 60% females and 40% males. Just before hatching, the eggs are buried in sand to simulate natural conditions and ensure that baby tortoises can dig upward and outward, a capability that bodes well for future robustness. Until the young tortoises are two years old, they’re placed in cages to offer protection against rats. By five, they’re in open-air enclosures, having received microchips that will track their movements once released into the wild.

And that, after all, is the ultimate goal, to repopulate the Galapagos with one of its most iconic species. Already, several hundred adults have been reintroduced to Espanola, an island particularly hard-hit by wave of threats over the decades. But the long-term prognosis is murky, especially as the invasive species that predate upon tortoises continue to grow in numbers. One option is to bolster the invasive species eradication efforts; another is that the animals will merely live the first few years of their lives in controlled conditions. But for now, the stabilization of the Giant Tortoise population is a victory in itself, a promising example of how conservation efforts can bring an organism back from the brink. As human impact on the unique Galapagos ecosystems increases, the model of tortoise rehab may prove useful in protecting other species from extinction, allowing the islands to maintain their unique treasure trove of biodiversity.

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