Mindy Paprskar

Endangered turtles


The activities of human beings are a serious threat to the survival of many turtles.  Therefore turtle conservation must improve to prevent certain species from becoming extinct.  There are over forty kinds of turtles that are endangered.  Some of these turtles are the tortoises, most sea turtles, and the box turtle of North America.  Specifically this article will be referring to the sea turtle.    The survival of the sea turtles are threatened by many  factors such as pollution, loss of nesting sites, fishing, and tourism.  In addition to the problems for the turtles, El Nino had created some concerns for the safety and well being for them in Nicaragua.
The turtle is the only reptile with a shell.  Most can use this outer shell as a protective covering to pull their head, legs, and tail into if needed.  However the sea turtle is one of the few which cannot draw into their shell.  There are at least seven species of sea turtles, six of them have bony scute covered shells.  Scutes are the outer layer consisting of a hard pointy structure formed by skin tissue.  The seventh species, the leatherback, forms its own family.  Its shell has fewer bones than the other sea turtles and is covered with skin verses scutes.  The shells of some kinds of turtles are plain black, brown, or green.  Others have bright green, orange, red, or yellow markings.  Since the sea turtle has a disadvantage and cannot withdraw back into his shell for protection, their size has to be a defense mechanism for them.  The sea turtle is possibly the largest turtle existing today.  The smallest sea turtle, the ridleys, can grow up to twenty eight inches long and weigh one hundred pounds!  However the leatherback can measure up to eight feet long and weigh 1500 pounds.  Sea turtles also are rapid swimmers, which is another tool they use when feeling threatened.
The first turtles lived more than 185 million years ago.  The archelon, incidentally a sea turtle, of about twenty five million years ago died out.  Just as many other species have done.  Not only are we concerned with weather issues such as El Nino taking a toll on the eggs of the sea turtles in Nicaragua, but man hunts the turtle for its food and for their shells.  We are also destroying their natural homes to make way for more cities and farms!  Human beings further endanger the turtles by poisoning their homes with pollution.  Evidence proves the younger sea turtles have confused oil droplets for food, and some adult turtles eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.1  Nesting has become a primary concern.  During the breeding season the female can nest more that once, and when the turtle comes to shore it places itself in a dangerous situation.  Settlement and recreational areas are invading on nesting areas, as well as destroying the conditions the turtles are accustomed to laying the eggs in.  As humans intervene, the tracks we make on the beaches with our cars, and the bright lights at night time can confuse the newly hatched turtles.  It is believed that turtles move between the beach and the ocean using reflected light, and man made lights will destroy their vision!   When the hatchlings finally do dig their way out of their nest, usually at night time,  they make their way toward the beach to enter the sea.  Again, the lights near the beach can disorientate them, causing them to wander in the wrong direction.  When this happens they often die of dehydration or are eaten by predators.  Migrating to the sea  is also made difficult through the vehicle tracks and sand pits that are made during the day by people.  The turtles are too small to climb out and often die due to  the hot sun.  El Nino is playing a dramatic role in the survival for the turtles in Nicaragua.  The high tides and droughts are damaging many of the turtles nests.  Hurricanes are tarring through these cities destroying over 800,000 eggs in Mexico alone.
There are organizations working for the protection and conservation of the turtles.  The Inter American Convention is the only international treaty dedicated to sea turtles.  The treaty is setting rules and guidelines to help prevent these animals from further becoming extinct.  The Inter American Convention is supported by several members of the international community of sea turtle biologists and conservationists.  In addition, several other Caribbean nations have passed legislation providing for full protection of endangered sea turtles in their waters.  The Inter American convention is founded on the concepts of other international accords, such as the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Agenda 21, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development and the Code of  Conduct for the responsible Fishing, adopted by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in its twenty-eighth Session. 2 Turtle preserves have been established in certain areas, and scientists are experimenting with raising valuable species on turtle farms.

Death is part of the natural world, although when humans participate in the destruction of any species, it's time  to take action!  Attempts are being made by many people and organizations to preserve what animal kingdom of the turtles are left.  If our society would unite to ensure the protection of these animals, we could save them from becoming extinct.