(TMU) — Nearly 100 critically endangered sea turtles have successfully hatched on a beach in Brazil free of human interference in the latest sign that governments’ measures to restrict tourism and gatherings of people has benefited wildlife to some degree.
The Guardian reports that the 97 hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) hatched on March 22 in the town of Paulista, Pernambuco.
The popular destination is typically packed with tourists who throng the beaches in order to witness the delicate baby turtles hatching from their eggs, but state Governor Paulo Câmara ordered a partial shutdown that saw residents urged to stay indoors and prevented them from holding beach gatherings.
Civil servants were the only ones to witness and photograph the hawksbill sea turtles breaking free from their shells and taking their very first steps toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Some happy news this Thursday ☀️ last week 97 tiny hawksbill sea turtles, hatched on a beach in Paulista, Brazil. These critically endangered turtles had a clear path to the ocean due to Coronavirus restrictions. #happynews pic.twitter.com/OOq8szZijc
— SW London Greenpeace (@SW_London_GP) April 2, 2020
A statement the City of Paulista acknowledged that the successful hatching and first contact of the animals with water was made possible by technicians from the Urban Sustainability Center.
Paulista environmental secretary Roberto Couto told the Guardian:
“It’s really beautiful because you can see the exact instant they come out of the eggs and… watch their little march across the beach. It’s marvelous. It’s a wonderful, extraordinary feeling.
This time, because of coronavirus, we couldn’t even tell people it was happening.”
Today's #OneSmileEachDay comes in the form of 97 tiny hawksbill sea turtles, which hatched last Sunday in Paulista, Brasil.
These critically endangered turtles help to protect coral reefs, which are crucial for the survival of many other creatures. pic.twitter.com/hmLItBdKCc
— WWF Cymru ? (@WWFCymru) April 1, 2020
Brazil’s Tamar conservation project, which devotes its efforts to the protection of sea turtles, said that the critically endangered species lays their eggs along the northeastern coast of the country.
The turtles are capable of growing to over three and a half feet in length and can weigh upwards of 185 pounds (85 kg)—making them one of the smaller sea turtles.
Their Portuguese name, tartarugas-de-pente, translates to “comb turtles” due to the historic use of their colorful patterned shells to make combs and frames for glasses. The English name of the turtle, however, derives from its narrow, pointed beak.
Hawksbill sea turtles are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, with its population declining precipitously by 80 percent over the past decade.
According to the U.S.-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, because sea turtles rely on both land and sea throughout their life cycles, species like the hawksbill are especially threatened by the effects of global heating, with sea level rise posing an existential threat to the species and their nesting sites.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) wrote:
“Hawksbills are found mainly throughout the world’s tropical oceans, predominantly in coral reefs. They feed mainly on sponges by using their narrow pointed beaks to extract them from crevices on the reef, but also eat sea anemones and jellyfish.
Sea turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. They are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds.”
The hawksbill turtles are especially at risk of being snatched by birds after hatching, or crushed by beachgoers—a threat that simply didn’t exist due to restrictions on visiting the beach.
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