Monday, May 10, 2010

Pet Turtle Care: Theft of Turtle Eggs Threaten Sea Turtle Existence

At one time there were several million sea turtles, however the present population has now waned to less than 200,000. These reptiles, whose ancestors evolved on land and returned to the ocean 150 million years ago, the time the dinosaurs roamed this planet, are now heading towards the same extinction. Here in South Florida, the loggerhead population has decreased by 41% since 1998, and they are now under the protection of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Included in this law is the protection of turtle eggs which when violated is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Sea turtles are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean with shells lighter than their land counterparts and the front and rear appendages are flippers which help them to swim fast and for long distances. Surprising to most of us, sea turtles have been clocked swimming up to 35 mph, close to the speed of a racing greyhound. These turtles only need to swim to the surface every few minutes to breathe. At night when they sleep, turtles can stay underwater for two hours without the need to take a breath because turtles have a higher concentration of carbon dioxide, and they are capable of using oxygen more efficiently. Juvenile turtles, however are not able to do that and float above the surface while asleep.

Yesterday, a homeless man, Bruce Wayne Bivens headed to jail after he was arrested for carrying a sack which he threw into the Intercoastal Waterway when he was spotted by the police. In the bag were 119 turtle eggs. A licensed biologist headed to the beach area to rebury 104 of the eggs, and the remaining 15 eggs would be kept for evidence and DNA testing. Turtle eggs are in high demand on the streets worth more than $2.00 each. Poachers use the turtle tracks the females will leave after laying their eggs and returning to the ocean.

The eggs have been advertised on black markets to boost male potency and are usually served raw in a parfait glass. Allegedly the claims that the protein when eaten four times a day will improve a man's sex life creates a huge demand and with ties to organized crime in Mexico, the turtle egg market demand is bursting at the seams. Turtles have also been hunted for their shells and used for jewelry; their skins used for leather goods; meat and eggs used for food and their fat used for oil.

The eggs are also sold with claims they can prevent and cure health problems, however scientific data reports sea turtle eggs very high in cholesterol, little nutritional value and to contain extremely high levels of the toxins cadmium and mercury at rates much higher than what is deemed safe by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Turtle eggs have a two month incubation term with the temperature of the eggs during their incubation influencing the sex of the turtles - male baby turtles often found deeper in the nest with the cooler sand. A group effort has to occur as the baby turtles chip away at their shells with a "egg tooth" - a hard, temporary protuberance on their beaks.

Together it takes all of the hatchlings a day or so to dig their way out of the nest, and they only dig at night stopping their work when the sand temperatures rise and daylight appears. Artificial light from streetlamps and condos has confused many baby turtles often causing their demise. Many are eaten by crabs or get lost on their way to the ocean or once in the water may get eaten by a shark or other carnivorous fish. Statistically only one in a thousand baby turtles survive until adulthood.

As conservationists and responsible stewards of all life, tougher laws and stricter enforcement is needed to bring back a safe population of these ancient creatures. Poachers and hunters need to be held accountable. There needs to be more social marketing and awareness campaigns. It is our job to protect life, and it is our job to guarantee that our children and grandchildren will have the same awe inspiring looks on their faces as we did when we first had the privilege to watch these turtles live exactly as they did 150 million years ago.

Article Source: Cheryl Hanna


Bryce said...

That makes me sick to hear that, especially about the poachers and other worthless scum willing to jeopardize the existence of these turtles for some libido booster? Anyone who perpetuates the endangered status of this animal by actually buying this turtle-egg-made libido booster is a selfish, pathetic criminal who will NEVER be a real man. Its little wonder that they can't get it up in the first place.

Maybe if it's advertised and really put out there that these libido boosters' desired effects are scientifically disputed to work AND are toxic then just maybe we can deplete these limp loser's demands for them..