Wildlife support is very important to the State of Florida. One of the most iconic animals is the turtle. With over 30 species of turtles found here, many individuals and organizations are set up to maintain and protect these half-shell reptiles. The turtles here can be divided into two main categories, those who live in the ocean, and those who live in rivers, creeks and lakes. Although all turtles are cherished, the sea turtles are in need of the most protection.
Throughout the year, mother turtles return to the same beach they were born to lay hundreds of eggs in the sand. Not having a defence against predators, and moving very slowly on land, mother turtles scare easily by objects on the shoreline. Ensuring the beaches are clear of party-goers, fallen trees, and predators, pregnant mommy can lay her eggs in peace. Incubating for 45-90 days (depending on the species and weather) and baby hatchlings emerge.
The survival rate is less than 1% for turtles, often not making it to hatchlings. Walking along the beaches in Florida and you will see flags marking turtle nests warning individuals to watch their step. The flags also give wildlife associations a clear indication where future generations of mother turtles are likely to return. We learned the temperature alters the sex of the turtles, thus covering the nest with a heat shield will develop more females, warmer nests will be males. Controlling nests and populations increases their survival rate, but taking their first breath is just the beginning of the struggle for survival.
When turtles hatch at night they are attracted to the moonlit ocean and waddle their way to the water. Knowing their habits, oceanfront buildings are not allowed to have bright lights on alongside the beaches. The man-made lighting, often being brighter than the moon attracts the turtles away from the ocean and towards civilization. The Tideline Hotel we stayed at was pitch black alongside the beach and offered night-vision goggles for guests to go turtle spotting at night without any disrupting flashlights.
We were repeatedly reminded of how important the turtle species are to the Florida residents. These harmless and peaceful reptiles are born into harsh environments without any secure defence. As they age their shells harden and protects them from predators. With help from residents of Florida, more turtles will make it to adulthood and their populations will increase. More turtles in the ocean means more turtles in the future.
For more information or to report sea turtles nesting, call 1-866-SEA-TURTLE.