Friday, 11 October 2019

From Med's biggest nesting ground, turtles swim to uncertain future

OCTOBER 9, 2019

by John Hadoulis

Freed from its eggshell by a volunteer, the tiny turtle hatchling clambers across a pebble-strewn sandy Greek beach in a race to the sea, the start of a hazardous journey that only one in 1,000 will survive.

Kira Schirrmacher, 22, donning black gloves to gently ease the newborn loggerhead turtle on its way, grins at suggestions that she's a kind of "midwife".

"Yes, I do that all day," says the German social sciences student, of her role.

She's one of several volunteers monitoring the beaches of Kyparissia Bay, the Mediterranean's largest nesting ground for the loggerhead, whose scientific name is Caretta caretta.

Tourism, climate change and good fortune all weigh on the future of the loggerhead population, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists as vulnerable.

Even sun loungers on the beach that can snag the turtles and bright lights that lure the hatchlings away from the water at night are potential threats, say environmentalists.

Growing in the Med

Their overall numbers are unknown but some Pacific and Indian Ocean populations are critically low, while conservation measures have bolstered their presence in the Mediterranean, environmental groups say.

With around 44 kilometres (27 miles) of coastline, Kyparissia on the western Peloponnese, had over 3,700 nests this year, up from 3,500 in 2018, says the Athens-based Archelon turtle protection organisation.

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