~Earthwatch Institute (Europe) continues to support Marine Turtle research projects around the world~
May 23rd was designated World Turtle Day to bring attention to conservation issues and to highlight ways individuals can protect these reptiles. Earthwatch Institute (Europe) celebrates World Turtle Day on May 23rd and all year round with marine turtle conservation research projects around the world.
All seven of the planet's species of marine turtles are threatened or endangered. The human threats to their survival are legion, from habitat destruction or alteration of their nursery, feeding, or nesting areas, to poaching of their meat, shells, and eggs, to accidental drowning at sea in gillnets.
"The Pacific leatherbacks currently face an annual mortality rate of up to 30 percent," said Frank Paladino, Chief Scientist of Earthwatch's Costa Rican Sea Turtles Project. "That rate is clearly unsustainable, and without dramatic intervention we can expect to see them disappear in as soon as a decade."
It is precisely these kinds of challenges that the Earthwatch model of participant funding was designed to meet. The Earthwatch model of supplying volunteer workers and funds gave sea turtle researchers the labour force to thoroughly monitor the nesting activities and productivity of sea turtles while discouraging egg-poachers along stretches of prime nesting habitat.
On many nesting beaches, Earthwatch teams have substantially reduced or eliminated poaching, educated hundreds of tourists and local people about sea turtle conservation, inspired community involvement, and moved hundreds of erosion-prone nests to safe hatcheries. Earthwatch volunteers' all-night beach patrols have enabled biologists to conduct saturation monitoring and tagging programs of nesting female turtles over consecutive years. These long-term projects have been crucial in determining average number of viable eggs laid per nest, average number of nests per turtle per season, inter-nesting interval, and beach fidelity. All this information is critical to tracking populations, reproduction, and migrations.
Roger Mitchell, Chief Scientist for Earthwatch Institute (Europe) comments: "Earthwatch scientists and volunteers are working to conserve three species of endangered turtles - the Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill - through projects in six countries. These projects are producing vital data on trends in populations and movements at sea to support management as well as hands-on work in hatcheries and on the breeding beaches. Our Leatherback turtle project in the US Virgin Islands has been in operation for 22 years, involving 1200 volunteers in walking 90,000 miles in beach patrols. This has resulted in nearly 150,000 hatchlings reaching the sea, which would otherwise have died, as well as a massive increase in public awareness and visitor numbers. Earthwatch will continue to support projects exploring the population biology of sea turtles around the world, projects that in many cases spell the difference between survival and extinction for some turtle populations."