A 130-year-old tortoise saved a young hippo’s life


This 17 December 2019 video from Kenya is called This 130 Year Old Tortoise [Mzee] Saves Baby Hippo [Owen]’s Life, Now They Are Best Friends.

Florida, USA sea turtle babies, new research


This 27 July 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Baby Sea Turtles Hatching at the Beach in Jupiter, Florida

I moved to Jupiter in 1988 and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this! It was around 8pm when they hatched and they all made it to the ocean!

From the University of Central Florida in the USA:

Where do baby sea turtles go? New research technique may provide answers

December 23, 2019

A team of Florida researchers and their collaborators created a first-of-its-kind computer model that tracks where sea turtle hatchlings go after they leave Florida’s shores, giving scientists a new tool to figure out where young turtles spend their “lost years”.

Nathan Putman, a biologist with LGL Ecological Research Assoc. based in Texas, led the study, which included 22 collaborators across Mexico, the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. Co-authors include UCF Associate Professor Kate Mansfield, who leads UCF’s Marine Turtle Research Group, and UCF assistant research scientist Erin Seney.

“The model gives community groups, scientists, nonprofit agencies and governments across borders a tool to help inform conservation efforts and guide policies to protect sea turtle species and balance the needs of fisheries and other human activity,” Putman said.

The team’s simulation model and findings were published this week in the online journal Ecography.

The model is built to predict loggerhead, green turtle and Kemp’s ridley abundance, according to the authors. To create the model, the team looked at ocean circulation data over the past 30 years. These data are known to be reliable and routinely used by National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies. The team also used sea turtle nesting and stranding data from various sources along the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida coasts. The dataset includes more than 30 years of information from UCF, which has been monitoring sea turtle nests in east Central Florida since the late 1970s. Mansfield, Seney and Putman previously worked together on other sea turtle studies in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The combination of big data is what made this computer model so robust, reliable and powerful,” Putman said.

The group used U.S. and Mexico stranding data — information about where sea turtles washed ashore for a variety of reasons — to check if the computer model was accurate, Putman said. The model also accounts for hurricanes and their impact on the ocean, but it does not take into consideration humanmade threats such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which occurred during the years analyzed in the study.

The computer model also predicts where the turtles go during their “lost years” — a period after the turtles break free from their eggs on the shoreline and head into the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico and northwest Atlantic. The turtles spend years among sargassum in the ocean, and any data about that time is scarce. Better data exist when they are larger juveniles and return to forage closer to coastlines. What young sea turtles do in between hatching and returned to nearshore waters takes place during what is called the “lost years” and is the foundation of sea turtle populations. Understanding where and when the youngest sea turtles go is critical to understanding the threats these young turtles may encounter, and for better predicting population trends throughout the long lives of these species, said Mansfield.

This work was supported in part by a National Academy of Sciences gulf research program grant awarded to Mansfield, Seney and Putman to synthesize available sea turtle datasets across the Gulf of Mexico.

“While localized data collection and research projects are important for understanding species’ biology, health and ecology, the turtles studied in one location typically spend different parts of their lives in other places, including migrations from offshore to inshore waters, from juvenile to adult foraging grounds, and between foraging and nesting areas,” said Seney, who helped coordinate data compilation from the multiple locations. “Our extensive collaborations on this project allowed us to study the Gulf of Mexico’s three most abundant sea turtle species and to integrate nesting beach data for distant nesting populations that ended up having close connections to the 1- to 3-year-old turtles living and stranding along various portions of the U.S. Gulf coast. Without the involvement of our Mexican and Costa Rican collaborators, a big piece of this picture would have been missing.”

Poached green turtles set free again


This 11 December 2019 video says about itself:

Indonesia police released more than 20 adult green sea turtles on December 10, 2019, after the animals were reportedly rescued from poachers. The endangered turtles, which are a protected species in Indonesia, were found under the floorboards of a ship during a routine patrol of waters near the country.

Fishing net lights save turtles and dolphins


This June 2019 video from the USA says about itsfelf:

Reducing Bycatch Helps Restore Sea Turtle Populations

Bycatch—when animals are accidentally caught while people are fishing for other species—is the biggest threat to sea turtles in the ocean. This project is helping reduce sea turtle bycatch and restoring their populations after the Deepwater Horizon [BP] disaster.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins

December 5, 2019

Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows.

LED lights along the top of floating gillnets cut accidental “bycatch” of sea turtles by more than 70%, and that of small cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises) by more than 66%.

The study, by the University of Exeter and Peruvian conservation organisation ProDelphinus, looked at small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018, and found the lights didn’t reduce the amount of fish caught from “target species” (ie what the fishers wanted to catch).

The findings support previous research which suggested LED lights reduce bycatch of seabirds in gillnets by about 85%. Gillnets, which can be either anchored or move with the ocean currents, are designed to entangle or snare fish by the gills, and are the largest component of small-scale fisheries in many countries.

“Gillnet fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds,” said lead author Alessandra Bielli, who carried out analyses as part of her master’s research at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“This could lead to declines in the populations of these non-target species — yet few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed.

“Sensory cues — in this case LED lights — are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.”

The researchers placed lights every 10m along the float line of 864 gillnets, pairing each with an unlit net to compare the results.

“The dramatic reduction in bycatch of sea turtles and cetaceans in illuminated nets shows how this simple, relatively low-cost technique could help these species and allow fishers to fish more sustainably. Given the success we have had, we hope other fisheries with bycatch problems will also try illuminating their fishing nets,” said Exeter PhD graduate Dr Jeffrey Mangel, of Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus.

Most of the turtles caught in the study were green turtles (86%), though loggerhead and olive ridley turtles were also caught.

Among the small cetaceans captured, 47% were long-beaked common dolphins, 26% were dusky dolphins and 24% were Burmeister’s porpoises.

“This work has further shown the usefulness of lights on nets to save wildlife. We now need lights that are ever more robust and affordable,” said Professor Brendan Godley, of the University of Exeter.

Fluid dynamics may help drones capture a dolphin’s breath in midair: here.

Kemp’s ridley turtles beaching in Massachusetts, USA


This 6 December 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Rescue, Cape Cod, MA

I visited a few friends who volunteer saving Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles (and others) on the shore of Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts. Every November, migrant turtles get caught in the bay as they travel South. As the water cools, they become cold-stunned and wash ashore. They need human intervention to rescue them.

Volunteers scour the beaches and get the sea turtles to an aquarium that nurses them back to health and eventually releases them. It’s GREAT work!

90% of the turtles that wash up on Cape Cod are Kemp’s Ridley… the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world. Every single turtle is worth saving and the rescue efforts have been incredible.

The day was amazing and I was honored and privileged to be a part of it. We found three Kemp’s Ridley turtles (two were pronounced dead) and one 88 lb., five-year-old Loggerhead who should do well in rehab! Incredible.

From PLOS:

How do world’s smallest sea turtles become stranded in Cape Cod?

Computer simulations help reconstruct ocean conditions behind stranding

December 4, 2019

A computational analysis has surfaced new insights into the wind and water conditions that cause Kemp’s ridley sea turtles to become stranded on beaches in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Xiaojian Liu of Wuhan University, China, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on December 4, 2019.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is smaller and in greater danger of extinction than any other sea turtle in the world. This species is found in coastal waters ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to Nova Scotia, Canada. While Kemp’s ridley populations have slowly risen since conservation efforts began in the 1970s, the number of turtles found stranded on Cape Cod beaches in the last few years is nearly an order of magnitude higher than in earlier decades.

To help clarify the conditions that lead to stranding, Liu and colleagues combined computational modeling with real-world observations. This enabled them to investigate circumstances that could trigger hypothermia in Kemp’s ridley turtles — the primary cause of most strandings — and subsequent transport of the cold-stunned animals to shore.

The researchers used the Finite Volume Community Ocean Model to simulate ocean currents in Cape Cod Bay. To validate these simulations, they also released drifting instruments into the currents and tracked their movements via satellite. Then, they looked for links between the simulations, the drifter data, water temperature data, and records of where and when Kemp’s ridley turtles were found stranded.

The findings suggest that Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are more likely to become stranded at certain beach locations along Cape Cod when water temperatures drop below 10.5° Celsius and, concurrently, winds blow with high wind stress in certain directions. Once stranded, hypothermic turtles usually require assistance from trained volunteers in order to survive.

While these findings provide new insights that could help guide future search and rescue efforts, questions remain. Further research is needed to clarify the depth of water at which Kemp’s ridley sea turtles typically become hypothermic, and how processes like wind and waves may impact stranding events at those depths.

Co-author James Manning notes: “While the state-of-the-art ocean model can help simulate the process, both the student-built drifters and bottom temperature sensors deployed by local fishermen are critical to the investigation.”

American nazis defile turtles with swastikas


This 7 November 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Authorities in Washington are trying to capture two turtles and arrest the person who painted swastikas on their shells after photos of the Nazi-adorned animals shocked a Seattle-area community this week.

The turtles were first spotted in a pond Tuesday at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in the city of Renton. Police said they tried to capture the animals, but the reptiles “have evaded apprehension”. They are now working with state and federal wildlife agencies to try to catch the turtles and remove the anti-Semitic markings from their shells.

This inhumane and offensive act has no place in our community,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest Regional Office wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

In response to the disturbing abuse, local residents are planning a “Rally Against Hate” at the park on Saturday afternoon, according to the Renton Reporter. At least one Facebook user reported seeing the swastika markings “a few weeks ago”, but she wasn’t sure who to report it to.

From KIRO7 in the USA, 8 November 2018:

Turtles tagged with swastikas at Gene Coulon to get rehabilitation

RENTON, Wash. – Several turtles that were painted with swastika symbols on their shells at Gene Coulon Park were recovered Friday, officials with the Renton Police Department said.

The City of Renton stepped in, getting federal help so the turtles can be rehabilitated. …

Police said the species of turtle is not native to Lake Washington, so someone left them in the park.

Washington state law enforcement officials say the leader of a local neo-Nazi cell — the same group that was connected to the death of the Jewish teenager Blaze Bernstein — may have planned to manufacture untraceable weapons known as “ghost guns”: here.

Prehistoric Floridans ate sea turtles, new research


This March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Florida beaches are some of the highest density nesting sites for loggerhead turtles in the world. As such, they’re a major focus for conservationists looking out for this endangered species.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Ancient bone protein reveals which turtles were on the menu in Florida, Caribbean

November 4, 2019

Thousands of years ago, the inhabitants of modern-day Florida and the Caribbean feasted on sea turtles, leaving behind bones that tell tales of ancient diets and the ocean’s past.

An international team of scientists used cutting-edge technology to analyze proteins from these bones to help identify which turtle species people fished from the ocean millennia ago. This can aid modern conservation efforts by helping construct historical baselines for turtle populations, many of which are now endangered, and illuminate long-term trends of human impacts.

The technique, known as collagen fingerprinting, allows scientists to visualize distinct chemical signatures in collagen, the main structural protein in bone, that are often species-specific. This provides a complementary alternative to comparing specimens’ physical characteristics and analyzing ancient DNA, two methods that can be unsuccessful for species identification in fragmented archaeological bones found in the tropics.

Applying collagen fingerprinting to more than 100 turtle samples from archaeological sites up to 2,500 years old, the researchers found that 63% of the collagen-containing bones belonged to green turtles, Chelonia mydas, with smaller numbers of hawksbill turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, and ridley turtles, Lepidochelys species. Some specimens previously identified as sea turtles from their skeletal features were in fact bones from snapping turtles, terrapins and tortoises.

“This is the first time anyone has obtained species-level information using proteins preserved in archaeological sea turtle bone,” said Virginia Harvey, the study’s lead author and a doctoral researcher in marine biology and zooarchaeology at the University of Manchester. “Our method has allowed us to unlock ancient data otherwise lost in time to see which species of turtle humans were targeting thousands of years ago in the Caribbean and Florida regions.”

Globally, sea turtles have been exploited for millennia for their meat, eggs, shells and other products. Today, they face threats from habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, pollution, climate change and fisheries. Only seven species of sea turtle remain, six of which are classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Gaining a historical perspective on how turtle populations have changed through time is a crucial component of conserving them, Harvey said.

One of the research team’s initial goals was to discern whether any collagen still survived in ancient turtle bone remains. In an analysis of 130 archaeological turtle samples, the team was able to detect collagen in 88%.

“We were very impressed with the levels of protein preservation in the turtle bones, some of which are thought to be up to 2,500 years old,” said study co-author Michelle LeFebvre, assistant curator of South Florida archaeology and ethnography at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “The fact we were then able to use the protein signatures for species identification to better understand these archaeological sites was very exciting.” …

Using collagen fingerprinting to correct misidentifications based on physical characteristics was “a nice additional outcome of the study,” said Michael Buckley, senior author of the study and senior research fellow at the University of Manchester.

Susan deFrance, study co-author and professor in the University of Florida department of anthropology, said juvenile sea turtles are often misidentified because they are small and may lack the characteristics used to distinguish adult sea turtle bones.

“This is the first time we have been able to look so specifically into the preferred food choices of the site occupants,” she said. “At the Florida Gulf Coast site, they captured a lot of juvenile turtles. The positive species-level identifications of these samples could not have been accomplished without this collagen fingerprinting technology.”

At the same site, researchers found green turtle remains in both refuse heaps and mounds, but ridley turtle specimens were only found in mounds, suggesting they may have been reserved for feasting rituals, LeFebvre said.

“We knew these ancient people were eating sea turtles, but now we can begin to hone in on which turtles they were eating at particular times,” she said. “It’s no different than today — we associate certain foods with certain events. It’s how humans roll.”

The researchers are also eager to continue to apply collagen fingerprinting to other archaeological museum specimens, many of which have yet to be positively identified to the species level.

Harvey said she hopes the study inspires further research on sea turtles and other vulnerable and endangered animals.

“Now that this method is available, we hope that biologists, archaeologists and conservationists globally will continue this important work.”

Casper Toftgaard of the University of Copenhagen and Andrew Kitchener of National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh also co-authored the study.