A beautiful stretch of Puerto Rico’s north coast that developers have long coveted is now a nature reserve.
The new reserve makes up 66 percent of what is known as the Northeast Ecological Corridor, located just north of El Yunque rainforest, a popular tourist attraction, and is also considered one of the prime nesting sites for the endangered leatherback turtle.
Thank you, Care2 Activists!
Over 18,400 of you signed our petition, sponsored by the Sierra Club, asking that this land be designated as federal critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles. Now these creatures get to keep their nesting grounds.
Under pressure from environmental activists, Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuno last week changed his mind and signed a law protecting these 1,950 acres of state-owned land from large-scale development. This reverses his decision of several years ago when he revoked the land’s protected status to attract developers and boost the island’s sluggish economy. It’s great to hear that the governor has now made the right eco-decision.
A Good Year For Leatherback Turtles
Things are looking up for leatherback turtles: last January, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated nearly 42,000 square miles of ocean along the West Coast of the U.S. as critical habitat for the Pacific leatherback turtle.
Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles, and the largest living reptiles, in the world, sometimes measuring 9 feet long and weighing as much as three refrigerators, or more than 1,200 pounds. Their life span is not fully known, but they are believed to live at least 40 years and possibly as long as 100 years.
The worldwide population has declined by 95 percent since the 1980s because of commercial fishing, egg poaching, destruction of nesting habitat, degradation of foraging habitat and changing ocean conditions. Listed as endangered since 1970 under the Endangered Species Act, there are believed to be only 2,000 to 5,700 nesting females left in the world.
Only Sea Turtle That Lacks A Hard, Bony Shell
The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard, bony shell. A leatherback’s top shell (carapace) is approximately 1.5 inches thick and consists of leathery, oil-saturated connective tissue overlaying loosely interlocking dermal bones.
Female leatherbacks lay clutches of approximately 100 eggs on sandy, tropical beaches. Females nest several times during a nesting season, typically at 8-12 day intervals. After 60-65 days, leatherback hatchlings emerge from the nest with white striping along the ridges of their backs and on the margins of the flippers.
And now they will be able to do this in peace on the north coast of Puerto Rico! Congratulations and thank you to everyone who signed our petition.
Photo Credit: anpawl10