What are the Chances? Turtle Survival
By Bryan Hayes
Walking on the beach in the early morning is a great way to start the day. There is something refreshing about the smell of the ocean, the majestic beauty of the beach and the sheer sanctuary and peaceful feeling of being out in the open air.
Recently, as Hurricane Irene was far enough off shore to not really cause a stir, the beach was a popular destination. Some people came for surfing, photographers came to capture the moment and others came simply to enjoy the waves. I stood on the sand completely mesmerized at how calm it was and, yet, how devastating the storm could have been.
As the sun glistened off the water, I happened to notice a little creature scurrying about my feet and figured it was a crab. Having my phone with me, I switched it to camera mode and was beginning to take a picture when I realized it was moving too fast to be a crab. After closer investigation, I realized that it was a newly hatched turtle trying to make its way into the ocean and onto the new adventure that then awaits him.
This particular turtle was moving straight toward the water, not even aware that I was standing there. The closer he got to getting to his destination, the water would ease him back and he would have to try again. It was a lesson in perseverance as it took multiple attempts before he finally made it. Just as he did, I noticed another turtle swiftly scampering across the sand although this one was quickly swept away by the first wave that it touched. I looked back towards the nest and marveled at the distance traveled for such a small creature. And even though they made it to the ocean, it does not necessarily mean they are going to “make it.”
For a turtle, the journey has just begun. Chances are it will have a short life expectancy as “only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood.” (See “Survival of the Sea Turtle”). They experience all sorts of natural threats- not too mention man – has increasingly become a major risk to their health and well-being.
While we artificially light up the night to provide lighting for driving, to help us feel more secure, to beautify the landscape – it also comes at a price. Environmentally, 20% of all hatchlings die because of lighting. Night lighting alters the natural balance of the turtle’s system. Not only do the lights affect turtles but also mammals, birds and even humans. This is the reason why cities have lighting ordinances limiting lighting at night.
Along with lighting, other major man made detriments to turtles include feeding of predators such as foxes and raccoons. The feeding increases their populations, and the foxes and raccoons feed off young hatchlings. Also, long-line fishing is a danger, because turtles get caught in the nets.
Considering that only 1 in every 1,000 to 10,000 eggs make it to adulthood, it was a pretty amazing site seeing not one but two turtles. I am always marveled by the ways of nature, and all the circumstances it takes for an animal to survive in the wild. It equally marvels me how we humans can alter the natural balance of things in ways that most of us do not even realize.
Bryan Hayes is an actor, amateur photographer, business consultant and full-time lover of all things living. He will be co-hosting a new show “Greenology 101.”