600 Baby Sea Turtles Get a Shot at Survival Thanks to Some Helping Hands

It is estimated that only one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood. However, one lucky batch of babies in Boca Raton, Fla., just got a helping hand.

Over 600 baby sea turtles were released into the ocean off of Boca Raton on July 27 by Fort Lauderdale Coast Guard and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center officials. The hatchlings had missed their instinctual dash to the ocean so they were scooped up after routine beach nest inspections and cared for at the nature center until their successful release.

According to reports, most of the hatchlings were baby Loggerhead sea turtles, but the group also included nine Green sea turtle hatchlings and one Hawksbill turtle, which had been rehabilitated at the nature center.

Here’s some local news coverage of the event:

Why did these baby turtles need human help? Well, life is hard from the get-go for baby sea turtles, but humans have made it even harder.

After a mama sea turtle nests, she returns to the sea and her eggs are left unattended to develop on their own. Once the hatchlings emerge from their shell after about 45 to 70 days, they remain in the nest for a number of days before facing a series of obstacles that stand between them and the ocean. There are predators, including birds and raccoons, to contend with, interruptions in the sand such as footprints and driftwood, and disorienting artificial lights.

As the organization SEE Turtles explains, the hatchlings usually wait for nighttime to begin their trek to sea, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or to overheat, and they use cues to find the water including “the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, and the natural light of the ocean horizon.”

David Anderson, a Marine Turtle Specialist at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, releasing a rehabilitated Loggerhead post-hatchling sea turtle from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. Photo Credit: AP/Wilfredo Lee

David Anderson, a Marine Turtle Specialist at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, releasing a rehabilitated Loggerhead post-hatchling sea turtle from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. Photo Credit: AP/Wilfredo Lee

Unfortunately for baby sea turtles, the artificial light that humans produce onshore can throw them off course. The turtles may think they’re heading towards the horizon when in fact they’re actually steering away from it—just one more example of how humans are interfering with Mother Nature.

David Anderson, a turtle specialist with the nature center in Boca Raton that helped this batch of 600+ babies, explains, “Hatchlings find their way to the beach crawling to the brightest horizon, but now the land is the brightest horizon.”

Fortunately many Florida counties and cities, including Boca Raton, have ordinances against light reaching beaches. Plus sea turtles are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and by Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act. As if they didn’t have enough challenges to contend with, according to the World Wildlife Fund, sea turtles are often poached for their eggs and meat, or killed for religious of medicinal reasons.

But back to the happy news, thanks to those good folks in Boca Raton, there’s hope for the over 600 emancipated baby sea turtles, which were released into a patch of sargassum seaweed offshore. Seaweed patches are the first place baby sea turtles head for once they hit the ocean, and where they live their first years of life.

Laurie Herrick, a turtle specialist with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, hopes their recent effort will increase the turtles’ chances of survival into adulthood, which usually takes about 25 years. Let’s hope she’s right.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

235 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

Thank you to all who helped those turtles.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Hopefully some will make it to adulthood. The turtles need many more release like this one in order to get a real chance at survival.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki D2 years ago

Fingers crossed for the babies.

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Sandra I.
Sandra I2 years ago

Thank you -- I wish them happy, beautiful, long lives

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Winifred Greaney

Thank god!!!

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Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Always a bliss to help

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federico bortoletto
federico b2 years ago

Grazie della condivisione.

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Sherri S.
Sherri S2 years ago

Thank you Gumbo Limbo workers for taking the time to save these cute little ones.

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

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