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Efforts underway to save Gulf Coast sea turtles

July 12, 2010 7:21:14 PM PDT
There is an unprecedented effort underway along the Gulf Coast to dig up and rescue turtle eggs. Biologists say the stakes are high and failure could throw the next generation of threatened and endangered turtles into peril.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is taking a great interest in the turtle egg rescue effort along the Gulf Coast where biologists at beaches in Florida and Alabama have begun the delicate and unprecedented work of evacuating turtle eggs in the oil spill region.

Veronica Franklin, senior aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, says there are five sea turtle species that can be found in the gulf and each one is threatened or endangered.

If the eggs buried in the sand hatch, it is the natural instinct of the young turtles to get as far out into the open ocean as possible and that path would take them directly in the danger zone of oil contaminated water.

"Once they hit the water, they are known to swim for 48 hours straight at a very high speed just to get away from the surf line," Franklin said.

In an effort to keep the turtles from making that dangerous journey, biologists are unearthing the eggs at various beaches and carefully packing them in coolers for transport to Florida's Kennedy Space Center where they will incubate and if all goes well, be released into the Atlantic Ocean.

Monterey Bay Aquarium's veterinarian Mike Murray says the transport and care for the eggs is critical to save the next generation of sea turtles.

"They have to watch out for humidity so these eggs don't lose too much water too quickly because the egg shell is just like a bird egg and relatively porous," he said.

There are an estimated 70,000 turtles eggs to be rescued. It's unknown how many of them will actually survive the hatching process and how many may need additional care.

If needed, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is on standby to provide assistance for the gulf turtles. Franklin says it could be anything from a place to recover before release or provide more extensive medical care.


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