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article imageArmy, Navy guarding sea turtles nesting on Nicaraguan beaches

By Igor I. Solar     Oct 14, 2011 in Environment
Managua - Army soldiers and Navy personnel have taken positions in wildlife refuges on the beaches of the Pacific coast of Nicaragua with the mission of protecting nesting sea turtles from egg looters.
About 15,000 endangered sea turtles are currently nesting on the “Chacocente” and “La Flor” beaches of the Pacific provinces of Rivas and Carazo in Nicaragua. According to NuevoDiario de Nicaragua (in Spanish), at least 200 soldiers are protecting more than 20 miles of coastline where the turtles are nesting.
Five species of sea turtles regularly nest on the beaches of Nicaragua. These are the green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley. All species of sea turtles are long-lived, but slow growing. They have a complex life cycle using a wide range of habitats including the open ocean, coastal waters and beaches. Sexual maturity occurs late in all species ranging from age 20 to 50 years. After mating, the females dig nests in sandy beaches and lay between 50 to 130 eggs per nest. The hatchlings crawl to sea water and swim towards the open ocean (video below).
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) just hatched.
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) just hatched.
Emha
All species of sea turtles are endangered by different factors. Impacts in the nesting areas include the direct take of adults for meat and their shells (carapace), the collection of eggs by humans who use them as food, and the predation of eggs by other animals (e.g. dogs, pigs). Other factors affecting the survival in nesting beaches are climate change, which may affect embryo development; sea level rise, as a result of global warming causing reduction of nesting beach habitat; loss of nests due to hurricanes; and loss of nesting areas because of heavy utilization of beaches by humans.
In the marine environment, threats stem from climate change including variations in seawater temperature, currents and oceanographic phenomena such as ENSO ( El Niño Southern Oscillation), pollution (sea turtles often swallow marine debris such as plastic bags, balloons, etc.); and boat collisions, particularly in coastal waters. Additionally, an important threat to sea turtle populations is their drowning by entanglement and capture in nets and other fishing gear.
Olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) nesting on a beach.
Olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) nesting on a beach.
C. Giovenzana
In an effort to increase the survival of the endangered sea turtles, Nicaraguan environmental agencies requested the support of the members of the Fourth Regional Military Command and the Navy to protect the nests in Chacocente and La Flor beaches, reports StarMedia.com (in Spanish). It is anticipated that the military presence will significantly reduce the number of turtle nests destroyed by looting.
More about Sea turtles, Nicaragua, La Flor beach, Chacocente Beach, ENSO
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