The first leatherback turtles are born in Ecuador in four decades
January 26, 2021
Quito, Jan 26 (EFE) .- For the first time in 40 years, Ecuador has witnessed the hatching of fifty leatherback turtle eggs (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest specimen of chelonium on the planet, which does not [always] reproduce in the country due to different natural factors.
This event, which has moved local officials from the Environmental Agency, took place on Punta Bikini beach, in the province of Manabí, the usual setting for the reproduction of other types of turtles.
The first neonates were discovered on Sunday in the supervision process by volunteers from the “Contamos Contigo Ecuador” foundation, dedicated to marine environmental protection, and since then more than 50 have been counted, although even more are expected in the next days.
“This is an extraordinary event, we see the fruits of an effort that allows us to meet the objective of conservation of these leatherback turtles, which are in critical danger,” the administrator of the Isla Corazón y Fragatas wildlife refuge told Efe. Cristian Soledispa, who has followed the process in recent months.
COMPLICATED REPRODUCTION PROCESS
The natural nesting of leatherback turtles on the Ecuadorian continental coasts -this species is also seen in the Galapagos archipelago-,was verified on November 26 and since then, its evolution has been followed.
The females of this species, characterized by the black coloration with white spots on their carapace, fins and neck, usually lay their eggs on the coasts of the Manabí and Esmeraldas provinces, but for different reasons they did not hatch.
“In 2015 and 2017 nests of this species were identified, but none were successful,” confirmed the environmental manager, recalling that there is a 1983 photographic record of another nesting that was equally unsuccessful.
Sometimes they are unfertilized eggs, other false nests in which the turtle does not lay eggs, or they simply did not hatch due to temperature reasons, a crucial element in the reproduction process of the Galapagos.
“Due to issues of eggs that are not fertile, climate and low temperatures inside the nest, the eggs did not hatch,” said Soledispa.
But the park rangers on this occasion did not leave it to chance; when they discovered the nest of the leatherback, they rescued at least a dozen eggs, which they transferred to an incubator.
The young of these incubated eggs are released as they gain strength after breaking the shell, and join the rest who manage to do it naturally on the beach, where they are watched by specialists to prevent them from being victims of predators in their way to the sea.
The historic event occurred 56 days after the nests were located.
In the first hatching, 38 hatchlings were born and the next day five from the incubator were added, a process in which technicians from Ecuador and Mexico, members of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (CIT), collaborated.
This is the first time that the birth of the leatherback species has been reported in the country, according to the Ministry of the Environment, and experts estimate that a similar phenomenon had not occurred in four decades.
And it is that the reproduction index of the leatherback is the lowest of the species of sea turtles, since only 50% of eggs usually hatch. Nesting occurs between the months of December and January.
TEMPERATURE IS CRUCIAL
To facilitate hatching, the Environmental Portfolio supervisors protected the nest with sandbags to avoid possible watering, and placed thermometers inside to monitor and balance the temperature.
“The plan was to cover the nest to give it shade when it passed 31 degrees, and when the temperature dropped below 29 we left the nest in full view of the sun,” explained Soledispa.
The supervision process also required a quick intervention from the experts because “two nights in a row it rained and the sand was wet,” which can interrupt the process, he added.
The climatic conditions and the excess of humidity make it difficult for the hatching and survival of the newborns, so as the young were born they were collected for study and protection.
The hatchlings were released in a low solar intensity schedule, and under supervision in order to make their way to the sea safely, since not only the tides are a threat to them, but also the wild dogs that are they feed on eggs.
The leatherback turtle lives in temperate tropical, subtropical and sub-arctic waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and can reach up to two meters and weigh more than 600 kilos.
“They are lung and marine reptiles, which go out to capture oxygen and submerge for a long time under the sea due to a low level of oxygen in their blood,” remarked the refuge administrator.
Its varied diet includes jellyfish, fish, crustaceans and algae, and like other marine species it is very sensitive to plastic pollution, as they tend to suffocate when ingesting pieces of plastic.
The species is on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the “vulnerable” section, while in the eastern Pacific Ocean it is under “critical danger”.
Given the exceptional birth of these animals, experts from different countries have implemented scientific methods to try to complete the reproduction cycle and guarantee their survival.
Read the coverage via Hola News at https://holanews.com/nacen-en-ecuador-las-primeras-tortugas-laud-en-cuatro-decadas-2/
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