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With Thailand’s Beaches Free of Tourists, Numbers of Rare Sea Turtle Nests Jump to 20-Year High

Authorities have found 11 turtle nests since last November—the highest number in two decades.

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Rare Sea Turtle Nests
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(TMU) — With tourism having ground to a halt in Thailand since the government implemented emergency measures to curb the coronavirus, its beaches have seen the biggest increase in nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in 20 years.

The news comes as just the latest signal that lockdowns being imposed across the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are giving the animal kingdom a much-needed respite with tangible results.

Thailand typically attracts anywhere from 30 to 40 million international tourists every year, making the tourism industry a mainstay of the country’s economy. However, the coronavirus lockdown and travel restrictions declared on March 9 have halted the flow of travelers, leaving beaches empty and giving nature a chance to take it back.

According to conservationists, authorities have found 11 turtle nests since last November—the highest number in two decades. In the past five years, not a single turtle net was found.

Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, told Reuters:

“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans.

“If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach.”

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest of all living turtles in the world. In Thailand, the reptiles are considered endangered while the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the WWF both list them as a vulnerable species.

Leatherbacks require soft and sandy beaches with broad access from the ocean for its nesting purposes. Females will emerge on to the beach and use their rear flippers to create a nest before depositing about 100 eggs into the nest before backfilling them to disguise them from predators. During the nesting season, females will repeat this process every 10 days. Females nest in intervals ranging from two to seven years.

Typically, the eggs are laid in dark and quiet areas which are difficult to find when beaches are flooded with tourists. The eggs are also sought-after by people who will dig into the nests to steal the eggs.

Conservationists fear that due to the unprecedented rapid pace of global climate change, leatherbacks and other marine turtles will be unable to adapt. In the case of leatherbacks, which have long life-spans and mature over a very long period of time, the impact on population numbers could be severe.

The nests found in Thailand aren’t the only success story about sea turtles since the global pandemic began wreaking havoc for human societies and giving animals space to live their natural lives.

Last month in India eastern coast, over 475,000 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles were able to dig nests and lay their eggs. Authorities estimate that the turtles are on course to lay some sixty million eggs this year alone.

Early this month in Brazil, nearly 100 hawksbill sea turtles successfully hatched on a beach in the Brazilian town of Paulista, Pernambuco.

On Monday, The Mind Unleashed also reported that the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Florida has already counted 69 sea turtle nests, a high number for so early in the season. The majority of the nests belonged to leatherbacks.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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