An Article by Hannah Mackay with The Voice
As our theme in the magazine is Super Heroes this month, we had to include some of the most fascinating creatures that live on our doorstep. Okay so they aren´t the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety, but they are pretty super in their own right. Turtles
OLD MEN OF THE SEA
Turtles are classified as reptiles and have been on earth for over 200 million years. Their bodies are protected by a shell with an opening at the front and back. They have lungs so they have to come to the surface to breathe, but can hold their breath underwater for 40 minutes. Paddle shape fins propel them through the water and their powerful beak made of horn, helps them to feed on crustaceans, fish and sponges.
CREATURES OF HABIT
Turtles have Pelagic habits, making long migratory journeys linked to their reproductive cycle. Females come ashore on a beach at dusk, select an ideal spot and dig a hole in the sand where they lay their eggs. The female then covers the eggs in sand and returns to the sea. The young hatch after an incubation period of around 60 days and head straight for the sea. Sadly very few young will make it to adulthood, but those that do, will return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Fuerteventura sits on their migratory route around the Atlantic, which means Turtles can be found in our waters all year round.
There are four species of Turtles found here in the Canary Islands: Leatherback, Boba, Green and the Hawsksbill. The Loggerhead Turtle is the most common and the Spanish name for them is Caretta Caretta which means stupid Turtle, because they have a habit of floating and sunbathing on the surface which makes them sleepy, easily captured and /or run over by boats. Loggerhead turtles have nested on Fuerteventura’s beaches in the past but mainly due to the presence of humans along the coastline they have stopped using our beaches for breeding. The loggerhead can be hard to spot but can occasionally come close to shore, normally in fishing harbours. They are characterised by their large heads and can grow between 2.5 and 3.5 feet (80-110cm). Adult Turtles and their eggs were once a significant food source for the islanders here and Turtles have long fascinated people. Unfortunately, this has not saved them from being exploited for both food and profit. Millions of sea turtles once roamed the oceans, but now only a fraction remains.
Conservation – Turtles are currently in danger of extinction in our waters due to: pollution, plastics adrift, fishing nets, trade, collisions and the destruction of egg laying’s. For these reasons The Marine Turtles in Fuerteventura project has been set up and aims to re-introduce the loggerhead to our waters. The project based in the south of the Island aims to re-establish a turtle population laying eggs on our beaches. The project brings a donor population of eggs to Fuerteventura from the Cape Verde Islands. These eggs are incubated and then placed in nests on the beach at Cofete. Once hatched the young are taken to sea water tanks in Morro Jable and nursed until they have reach an adequate size. Around a year old they are released into the sea and the hope is they will return to the beaches of Fuerteventura in 15 years to nest and re-populate the waters of the Canary Islands.
An encounter with a turtle is an exceptional event so please take care and respect the turtle remembering you’re in their environment. Please do your bit to help protect these beautiful animals by not throwing rubbish in the sea.