terça-feira, 27 de julho de 2010


Scientists and volunteers are fighting desperately to move up to 700 loggerhead sea turtle nests, containing some 70,000 eggs, from the oil-threatened Gulf to the Atlantic coast of Florida, in what many view as the only chance to save the baby turtles from certain disaster.
Every year, young loggerhead sea turtles migrate thousands of miles. Up to half of the turtles lose their lives to predators. This year, scientists fear that many more could perish in the giant oil spill that awaits them in the Gulf of Mexico.
These concerns have prompted biologists to undertake the largest turtle move ever. Hundreds of volunteers from the turtle rescue group Share the Beach are joining scientists and government wildlife officials to move loggerhead nests from places like Gulf Shores, Alabama.
According to Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the unprecedented plan "is based on the best science of what we need to do for these turtles at this time, because to release them now would be even riskier when they have to go out there and encounter the oil.”
Loggerhead turtles also live in the Atlantic, so these Gulf loggerheads will have familiar place to go once they hatch.
Volunteers from the turtle rescue group Share the Beach will gently dig away about two feet of sand to access the clutch of eggs.
They will then carefully remove each ping-pong-ball-sized egg, and hand it over to another rescuer who will carefully mark each egg with a grease pencil to show which side faced up in the nest.
The eggs are then placed gently into a sand-filled cooler in the same position in which they were removed from the nest. This part is crucial, as baby turtles can drown in the egg fluid. They are also keenly sensitive to changes in temperature or vibrations, which can also kill them.
Success in the group's effort is far from certain, and many project members are painfully aware that earlier animal relocation efforts have yielded mixed results at best. But supporters are certain that the hatchlings would almost surely die in the Gulf without their help.
Dianne Ingram, Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service points out that the turtles' food source, "which is microorganisms, whether plankton or zooplankton, jellyfish, they are all being affected by the oil. And so their food source is limited as well as the chemicals in the water.”
Bruce Porter, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees: “We’re giving them the best chance for survival. Of course a turtle is an air breather, it has to come up for air at some point. And when they come up for air we just hope they don’t come up in oil – if we let them go here. But if they go to the Atlantic, they’re going to make it, hopefully.”

Get the full story in National Geographic