Everything You Need to Know About Turtles

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(By Kim Ryan) On Tuesday evening SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Kelly Sloan presented “The Sea Turtles of Southwest Florida” at The Mound House as part of The Mound House lecture series.

40 people from the community attended the event, many of whom are ‘turtlers,” volunteering with Turtle Time, the local not-for-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of marine turtles.

Sloan presented a slideshow with many interesting facts regarding the different species of sea turtles, their nesting behavior, and research SCCF is conducting on threats facing sea turtles and the negative effects of harmful algal blooms on turtles.

Some basic facts highlighted about these amazing reptiles include:
They are air breathing.
They are more than 100 million years old
They come ashore only to nest and most often at night
They are at risk of extinction.

Another tidbit Sloan discussed was how the sex of turtles is determined by temperature above 29 degree’s C. She discussed how one study conducted by SCCF looks at how environment affects sex ratios, measuring temperature, moisture, and groundwater influence on loggerhead hatchling sex ratios. If it’s above the 84.2 mark they are females below that they are males. Sloan mentioned an easy way to remember that is “Hot chicks” and “Cool Dudes”.

Additional research focused on how harmful algal blooms showed that toxins produced by red tide are not only found in adult turtles but also the hatchlings. They were able to detect increased levels of Brevatoxins (which are a neurotoxin which can have devastating effects on marine life) in the livers of hatchlings.

Of the 7 different species, Loggerheads are most prevalent here on the Southwest Florida Coast. Additionally, Kelly mentioned that Florida hosts 90% the world’s Loggerhead nests which is why it is so important to do all we can to protect them and continue efforts to encourage nesting behaviors and support the success of hatchlings reaching the Gulf. Sloan tipped her hat to the efforts of folks like Eve Haverfield, Director of Turtle Time and the Turtle time crew for their efforts aimed at increasing the population of these gentle reptiles. Haverfield commented to BTR that “it is up to all of us to ensure good management practices” She also highlighted how the two groups work towards ensuring the future survival of the sea turtles,”it is a team effort”

Turtle Time’s Eve Haverfield (left) and Mary Rose Spalleta

What can you do? Turning lights off in the evening, closing your drapes or replacing outside white lights with amber, picking up beach furniture and filling in holes are things everyone can do to help. Sloan also mentioned if you’re out at night and have to use a flashlight cover it with a red filter. Check out SCCF for other ways you can protect wildlife and all the information about this great organization HERE.

Overall the message was hopeful as she indicated they are seeing an increase in nests which indicates efforts on beaches are having a positive effect in our area.

The Mound house lecture series continues throughout the summer on the second Tuesday of the month at 5:30. Each 1 hour lecture includes a selection of hors d’oeuvres with wine during a 30 minute reception preceding the lecture. RSVP required by calling 239-765-0865.

You can also check out the FWC website for tips on how to protect the Sea Turtles HERE.

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