First leatherback sea turtle nest discovered

400-TURTLE-NESTThe Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve announced today that the first leatherback sea turtle nest on its beaches was discovered on Saturday, April 19th; Rainer Eastman and Cat Eastman caught a glimpse of the newly discovered turtle nest at the South Beach.

The volunteers began monitoring and evaluating this season’s sea turtle nests on the Reserve’s beaches, seven days a week, beginning April 1.

“Sea turtles have been using our beaches as nesting grounds since the era of the dinosaurs,” stated Director of the GTM Research Reserve Michael Shirley, Ph.D. “Today, these gentle creatures are facing the same fate as the dinosaurs … extinction.”

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing up to seven feet long and exceeding 2,000 pounds. They undertake the longest migrations between breeding and feeding areas of any sea turtle, averaging 3,700 miles each way. After mating at sea, females come ashore during the breeding season to nest.

The nighttime ritual involves excavating a hole in the sand, depositing around 80 eggs, filling the nest, leaving a large, disturbed area of sand that makes detection by predators difficult, and finally returning to the sea.

“Our volunteers have been educating the public of the dangers associated with obstructions on the beach and human intervention to try to reduce the disturbance and harassment of nesting sea turtles and to increase the hatchling survival rate,” added Shannon Rininger, volunteer coordinator at the Reserve. “Through our efforts, we hope to have a long-lasting and meaningful impact on the sea turtle nesting population.”

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