Peninsula Turtle Patrol receives grant

The Sea Turtle Conservancy Sea Turtle Grants Program, funded through Florida’s specialty license plates sales, has awarded a grant to the Florida Coastal Conservancy, which in turn supports the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol.

The St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol, which works in conjunction with the Florida Coastal Conservancy, conducts morning surveys on six miles of beach along the St. Joseph Peninsula from May through October and will be implementing the grant project.  In addition to marking new nests, monitoring hatchling emergences and recording data, the SJP Turtle Patrol volunteers interact with residents and visitors, providing information about sea turtles, the threats they face, and how these threats can be reduced.

The goal of the grant is to improve nesting beach habitat and marine conditions for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on the St. Joseph Peninsula and for juvenile sea turtles that utilize near-shore habitats in St. Joseph Bay.  Through the design, development, and distribution of printed informational materials funded by the grant, the volunteers hope to mitigate the negative impacts caused by improper beach and marine use.  These materials will include information about how to respectfully enjoy the recreational activities in this area; how lighting and litter can have a negative impact on sea turtles; the obstacles that beach furniture and recreational equipment left overnight on the beach can be to nesting and hatching sea turtles; the effects of boating strikes and by-catch on sea turtles; and what to do if a stranded or injured sea turtle is sighted.

Informational materials will be distributed through morning beach surveys, property management offices, the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, and at several annual festivals and events.

By promoting positive beach and marine stewardship, we can all maintain our beautiful natural environment and alleviate the impacts of increased use by visitors and residents.

For additional information, please contact Jessica McKenzie via email at


Fundraiser for Turtles and Tortoises, May 3

The Valley Chapter of the California Turtle & Tortoise Club (CTTC) will be holding its annual educational show and fundraiser Saturday, May 3, 12-4 p.m. Live turtles and tortoises will be featured to bring public awareness about their care and conservation.
This year’s featured vendor will be The Popcorn King. Nachos, hot dogs, a variety of sausages including a vegetarian dog, popcorn, chips and an assortment of beverages will be available for purchase.
A silent auction and raffle are planned to help raise funds for the club’s sick and injured animal fund in addition to rehabilitation and education. Persons interested in adopting a turtle or tortoise from the chapter may do so by submitting an application either online, at the show or at a meeting. Membership in the club is not necessary to adopt an animal, but mandatory yard checks for safety and compatibility with other pets is required.
The event will be held at the Woodland Hills Christian Church, 5920 Shoup Ave., Woodland Hills, CA, at the southeast corner of Oxnard.
CTTC is a non-profit organization that is celebrating its 50th year. There are 14 active chapters in and around southern California. The Valley Chapter meets the third Friday of every month at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit Membership and Adoption applications will be available at the show. Entry is $3 for Adults; $2 for seniors; and $2 for children over 6.


Endangered turtles come to nest on Saadiyat Beach

It was spotted by a beach patrol in the early hours of April 22

anjana sankar, senior reporter Published: 14:02 April 24, 2014

Image Credit: supplied
Arabella Willing, Marine Biologist at hotel Park Hyatt near a nest of critically endangered Hawksbill turtles discovered on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat beach recently
ABU DHABI A nest of critically endangered Hawksbill turtles has been discovered on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat beach. It was spotted by a beach patrol in the early hours of April 22.

“This is fantastic news. We have cordoned off the nesting area so it is not disturbed by beach goers. Walking over buried eggs compacts the sand, making it difficult for hatchlings to dig their way out, said Arabella Willing, Marine Biologist at hotel Park Hyatt.

She hoped more nests would appear in the coming weeks, and urged residents and visitors to Saadiyat to stay off the beach at night, and keep outdoor lighting to a minimum.

Marine turtles are known to spend their entire life in the sea except when they are laying a nest. “The mothers crawl out to the beach and dig 30 centimetre deep holes to lay eggs. On an average, one turtle lays around 70 eggs (each the size of a ping-pong ball) in the hole,” explained Willing.

“The mother covers up the hole and does not return to check on her eggs. The babies hatch two months later and crawl into the sea. Male turtles never return to the beach again, but female turtles return in about 30 years to lay their eggs in the same place they were hatched,” she added.


Rescued turtle gets a second chance at a long life

Published on 24 April 2014
On Wednesday this week, a group of good samaritans rescued a live hawksbill turtle which was on sale at a roadside stall on the north coast of Upolu in Samoa. Staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) were involved in tagging the rescued turtle and releasing it at the Palolo Deep Marine Sanctuary in Apia. The release was co-ordinated by Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson and James Atherton of Samoa Conservation Society.

Ms. Juney Ward of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) believes that this incident presents a good opportunity to remind the public about the laws in Samoa surrounding the protection of marine turtles.

“Under the Marine Wildlife Protection Regulations 2009 and Fisheries Regulation 1996, it is illegal in Samoa to sell, catch, injure or kill turtles. We are asking the public to support our efforts to protect these endangered animals by reporting such incidences of sale or capture to MNRE or the Fisheries Division.”

Storm Turtle 1
Pictured above: The rescued hawksbill turtle gets ready for release after being fitted with SPREP turtle tags.

The turtle that was released on Wednesday was named ‘Storm Turtle’ by the people who rescued it and now carries the tags R31052 and R31053 on its flippers. Ms. Penina Solomona, SPREP’s Convention on Migratory Species Pacific Officer, explains that these tags will contribute to ongoing efforts to protect marine turtles in the Pacific region:

“Should Storm Turtle, or any other tagged turtle, be encountered, we ask that the tag numbers are reported to SPREP to help us track its movements. Turtles that have been tagged in Samoa have previously been reported as far away as Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. This highlights the migratory nature of the species, and the importance of working in collaboration across the region in order to protect them.”

Ms. Solomona added that hawksbill turtles can live up to an astonishing 100 years. “Given the rescued turtle’s size, we estimate that it is no more than 15 years of age – it’s even too young for us to determine whether it is male or female.”

Storm Turtle 2
Pictured above: Ms Penina Solomona, with onlookers, watch as Storm Turtle is released at the Palolo Deep Marine Sanctuary in Apia, Samoa.

Witnesses to the turtle release on Wednesday applauded Storm Turtle as he or she enthusiastically made its way back into the ocean for a second chance at a long, and hopefully safe, life.

For more information: An easy-to-understand guide to conservation laws in Samoa, including information on the protection of marine turtles, can be downloaded from here.


Savannah turtle workshop gathers terrapin lovers

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:03 PM By Mary Landers

Jordan Gray has loved diamondback terrapins since he was a 12-year-old in Maryland and owned a female of this species, the only turtle to live exclusively in the salt marsh. He named her Lucy.

“There was a small population living in canals of the beach community my family and I used to vacation at every year in southern North Carolina,” he said. “My friends had caught an adult female in their cast net, and I got to take it home as a pet. I took care of her for a year and then returned her to the same canal she had originally come from on our next beach outing. From this point on I was hooked.”

So hooked that even though Gray is now a keeper at the Houston Zoo he’s returning to Savannah on Saturday to attend a terrapin workshop he’s helped organize.

He’s expecting participation from his alma mater Armstrong State University, where he established a club that rescues, raises and studies terrapins. Also expected are veterinarian Terry Norton of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and John “Crawfish” Crawford, a UGA naturalist who has helped Landings resident Carolyn McInerney organize the rescue of terrapin eggs from the golf community’s sand traps.

The workshop is free and open to the public.

Diamondback terrapins aren’t endangered, but they are a “species of concern” in Georgia. While they live exclusively in salt marshes, they seek dry, sandy soil for their nests. Consequently, many females become road kill. Terrapins are the turtles referred to in the “Turtle Crossing” signs on U.S. 80. Many are injured or killed each year despite the warning. Terrapins are also prone to drowning in crab traps.

Gray wants to spread information and protection efforts about them because, to him, they symbolize the marsh, of which Georgia has a fair chunk of what remains on the East Coast — one-third by one oft-cited estimate.

“They are a species intrinsically linked with the salt marshes,” he said. “So I have and continue to dedicate much of my time to ensuring that other people see the beauty and mystique of this species and want to preserve them in these areas as much as I do.”


1st Savannah-Region Diamondback Terrapin Workshop

When: 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Oatland Island Wildlife Center

Cost: Free and open to the public.

For more information, see the T.E.R.P.S. Facebook page.


Turtle saviors of Saba

Safer ground: Turtle eggs are removed from open beach and reburied at the Bali Turtles of Saba group’s tiny beach compound.

Safer ground: Turtle eggs are removed from open beach and reburied at the Bali Turtles of Saba group’s tiny beach compound.
The steady erosion taking huge chunks out of many of Bali’s southeastern beaches has yet to bite into Saba Beach. Here tall trees shade the black sand glittering sharply with mica, horses gallop the strand meeting turquoise surf and a handful of fishermen repair nets under thatched-roof shacks.

Here also turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, the only beach in Gianyar regency where the turtles are safe from erosion, says fisherman I Made Kikik, who was born and raised in the area.

His many years by the sea are written in the deep lines on his face like the rings on trees; like so many fishermen, Kikik is poor. Despite the paucity of his income he sets aside money from April to September to feed the turtles that hatch in the little shaded yard he has constructed to protect the eggs and hatchlings from the wild dogs that roam the beach most nights.

“I started to take care of the eggs, digging them up from the burrows and bringing them here for protection, because I felt sorry for the babies. All the eggs were being eaten by wild dogs and monitor lizards,” says Kikik who journeys up Saba Beach most nights during the six-month turtle breeding season to chase away the feral dogs that he says are devastating turtle populations on Saba Beach.

Passionate about turtle protection, Kikik has formed the Bali Turtles of Saba group, made up of eight other local fishermen who work together to conserve and improve turtle survival rates.

Community initiative: Members of the Bali Turtles of Saba group are local fishermen without biological science skills.

Community initiative: Members of the Bali Turtles of Saba group are local fishermen without biological science skills.

Kikik’s small patch of fenced beach has a pink rag doll hanging on the gate, local plants climb the driftwood timbers that support the fencing wire and two palm-leaf shelters are the new home of hundreds of reburied turtle eggs soon to hatch. Underfoot the black sand is scorching hot, within the nests a perfect temperature for the growth of the babies.

“On hatching we get a bucket and fill it with seawater for the babies. we keep them here for two months to grow, feeding them shrimp and fish that we chop finely. It costs about Rp 10,000 [85 US cents] a day to feed 50 hatchlings and there are times we have hundreds of babies to care for,” says Kikik.

He explains that his group does not release the babies on hatching due to their great vulnerability to predators, both on the land as they make their way to the ocean and in the sea itself.

“By the time they are about two months old they can swim fast and keep away from predators,” says Kikik adding that before he began his turtle-rescue operation he had noticed turtles in the local ocean had grown more scarce, this he put down to wild dogs eating the eggs.

“The dogs are wild, they are dangerous and we worry about rabies. When we go to protect the eggs at night we carry stones to chase the dogs away,”

Kikik’s friend and fellow fisherman, Ketut Sudiana, acts as secretary for the Bali Turtles of Saba group. In his hand he has pages torn from a child’s school exercise book. In shaky writing he has listed all the eggs that have been relocated to the safe zone and the numbers of live births and releases achieved in 2013 and those to date this year. Survival rates are extremely high with just one or two baby turtles lost out of the hundreds the group has raised.

“We love these turtles — really love them. Some people try to catch and kill turtles and that makes me ashamed. In the past these turtles were nearly gone from this beach so now we are protecting them for the future,” says Ketut.

Staggeringly, among these turtle protectors, not one has any biological-science background; they have been running on instinct for the past seven years.

“What we need more than anything else are some research scientists to teach us how to better care for the turtles,” says Kikik, adding funds to build a pond for the hatchlings and a pump to bring fresh sea water would also be extremely valuable assistance. 

Turtle home: The tiny turtle compound made of found objects and old fishing nets.

Turtle home: The tiny turtle compound made of found objects and old fishing nets.

Also on the group’s wish list are funds to build a better, more secure pen and help with feeding costs.

As a backdrop to Kikik, tucked into the shady trees that stretch along this beach with million-dollar views, several villas have been erected on valuable seafront land — the contrast with Kikik’s turtle protection pen built from found objects and old fishing nets is striking.

“It is a real struggle when we have hundreds of turtles to feed. We receive no funding from the government or anyone else,” says Kikik, gently burying another clutch of turtle eggs within the Bali Turtles of Saba beach compound.

— Photos by J.B.Djwan

Turtles vs. turbines

A Blanding's turtle roadside at Ostrander Point. Photo from Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

The Ontario Divisional Court has ruled in favor of a wind turbine project that put groups with environmental interests at odds with each other.

On one side is an alternative energy project. On the other is protection of a threatened turtle species and fragile soil.

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) took Ostrander Point Gilead Power Inc. to court to challenge the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s “renewable energy approval” to build nine wind turbines near Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County.

The court decision – now on hold pending a further appeal — would allow Ostrander to start construction after the Environmental Review Tribunal revoked the Ministry’s approval.

PECFN relied on the Endangered Species Act to halt the project. The act requires proof of harm to human health, or serious and irreversible harm to plant or animal life or the environment due to the construction of the wind farm.

The tribunal revoked Ostrander’s approval, saying that the project would endanger the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species in Ontario since 2004.

The project is planned for a site 15 kilometers, or nine miles south of Picton.

Cheryl Anderson, a member of the executive board of PECFN said that her organization is appealing the court’s decision.

The alvar and woodlands of Ostrander Point. Photo from Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

“Our appeal will be based on our belief that the arguments given by the divisional court were incorrect,” she said.

The Ontario Appeal Court has granted a stay of construction until it decides whether to accept the case. During this process, Ostrander can do no construction.

“That’s what we have achieved, and we are very happy about that,” Anderson said.

“There are nine turbines and access roads planned. If the turbines go in, then the habitat will be destroyed,” said Anderson. “The habitat is alvar, wetland and quite a bit of meadow, especially the wetland because it is the home of the Blanding’s turtle.”

Alvar is a fragile type of topsoil.

Mike Lord, president of the company, said the project was started in 2006 at the invitation of the Ontario government. The province wanted to develop a wind energy facility on Crown Land in a remote area previously used as a bombing practice range by Canadian Armed Forces.

Crown Land is owned by the province.

Lord said the planned project will produce 2.5 megawatts (MW) of energy, for a total potential production of 22.5 MW, or enough to power almost 6,000 homes. He said the wind farm would cost $60 million (Canadian) to build and about $3 million per year to operate.

Christopher Keen, a county resident, said Ostrander Point was used as a gunnery range at the beginning of World War II and, to his knowledge, has not been used for any military purposes since then.

A map of Ostrander Point. Photo from Gilead Power Inc.

Anderson of PECFN said construction of the roads would increase the likelihood of female turtles laying their eggs on the gravel of the road. She said that would increase the eggs’ vulnerability to predation, as well as exposing the turtles to vehicles using the roads.

Keen has lived a mile away from Ostrander Point for 10 years. He said that he and a majority of the community are opposed to the project.

“There was a referendum two summers ago, and the majority of people who voted were against it,” said Keen. “This was organized by some members of the community who could have been opposed for a number of reasons.”

“This is the first time the province has said Crown Land can be used for wind turbines,” said Keen. “I feel strongly about it because we have an Endangered Species Act, and either we follow it or we don’t.”

After the divisional court heard the case in February, it ruled in favor of Ostrander saying the tribunal had wrongly revoked the approval.

Since the PECFN didn’t have data about the amount of Blanding’s turtle mortality due to vehicles, it did not prove the project would jeopardize the species, the court said.

The Ministry of Environment declined to be interviewed for this story.

Lord said, “The company has gone above and beyond to ensure the Ostrander Point project is a model for responsible wind energy development. Gilead Power has followed the rules for applying for, planning and managing the development of a renewable energy project in accordance with the province’s requirements.”

Both the tribunal and the court rejected challenges to the project based on possible adverse impacts on the fragile alvar topsoil and human health.

Anderson said, “This is kind of a big story — it’s not just the turtles but they won us the appeal. This place is important also for migratory birds, bats and monarch butterflies.”