Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tracks of The Queen Mum of Sea Turtles
Yes...THAT, is me kneeling beside the fresh tracks of a Leatherback Sea Turtle and you know I am no tiny girl. I named her The Queen Mum because.. well, after all, she laid her nest on British soil and I have so many QUEENly friends dear enough to name ANYthing or anyONE after, not to mention my own status as "Queen of my own Universe" and MUMs have been on our minds. AND I have NEVER seen giant tracks before. I thought 57 inches was giant. Not so, these were shy of 6 feet across. REGAL!
Thanks to Katie and Mike Wiley for sending us off on a LONG SIZZLING HOT HIKE to verify what they thought they had seen. I am still smiling. In a couple of months up to 100 turtle hatchlings will emerge from this nest and easily make sea because there are no condos, no unnatural noises, no lights, no boat parking etc etc. Mother Nature herself could not have chosen a better site than Cow Wreck Beach, Anagada.
Here are some facts I looted from http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20factsheets/leatherback-sea-turtle.htm
The BVI's host only 50 to 100 nesting Leatherbacks per year currently.
CRITICAL HABITAT: 50 CFR 17.95 U.S. Virgin Islands – A strip of land 0.2 miles wide (from mean high tide inland) at Sandy Point Beach on the western end of the island of St. Croix beginning at the southwest cape to the south and running 1.2 miles northwest and then northeast along the western and northern shoreline, and from the southwest cape 0.7 miles east along the southern shoreline. 50 CFR 226.207 The waters adjacent to Sandy Point, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin islands, up to and inclusive of the waters from the hundred fathom curve shoreward to the level of mean high tide with boundaries at 17 ̊ 42’12" North and 64 ̊ 50’00" West
HABITAT: The leatherback is the most pelagic of the sea turtles. Adult females require sandy nesting beaches backed with vegetation and sloped sufficiently so the crawl to dry sand is not too far. The preferred beaches have proximity to deep water and generally rough seas.
DESCRIPTION: The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and most migratory and wide ranging of all sea turtles. The adult leatherback can reach 4 to 8 feet in length and 500 to 2000 pounds in weight. Its shell is composed of a mosaic of small bones covered by firm, rubbery skin with seven longitudinal ridges or keels. The skin is predominantly black with varying degrees of pale spotting; including a notable pink spot on the dorsal surface of the head in adults. A toothlike cusp is located on each side of the gray upper jaw; the lower jaw is hooked anteriorly. The paddle-like clawless limbs are black with white margins and pale spotting. Hatchlings are predominantly black with white flipper margins and keels on the carapace. Jellyfish are the main staple of its diet, but it is also known to feed on sea urchins, squid, crustaceans, tunicates, fish, blue-green algae, and floating seaweed.
REASONS FOR CURRENT ENDANGERED STATUS: The crash of the Pacific leatherback population, once the world’s largest population, is believed primarily to be the result of exploitation by humans for the eggs and meat, as well as incidental take in numerous commercial fisheries of the Pacific. Other factors threatening leatherbacks globally include loss or degradation of nesting habitat from coastal development; disorientation of hatchlings by beachfront lighting; excessive nest predation by native and non-native predators; degradation of foraging habitat.