Turtle nesting breaks records

Human poaching threatens
successful 2012 turtle nesting

This year marks the fourth consecutive year that turtle
monitoring is being conducted on the northern beaches of Ambergris Caye.
Monitoring of the turtles is done during the turtle nesting season which runs
annually from May through November. This year however, nesting started a few
weeks earlier than expected and with the season at the midway point, already
more nests have been found than in 2011.
The monitoring of turtles is
conducted jointly by the staff of the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National
Park and Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR). Marine Biologist for HCMR Kira Foreman
told reporters during a field trip on Friday July 27th that not only did the
nesting season kick off early but there is also a large increase in the amount
of nests found as compared to figures over the past three years. “This
season seems like the best so far in terms of the amount of nests found,

said Foreman. As of July 31st, 65 turtle nests have been documented with
approximately 14 nests already hatched. For 2011, a total of 43 nests were found
during the entire nesting season.
At one time all of Ambergris Caye was
known to be a nesting beach for turtles in Belize but now turtles are confined
to smaller beaches due to the rapid development,
” explained Foreman. In the
past only two types of turtle have been documented to nest on the northern
beaches of Ambergris Caye, the loggerhead turtle (Chleonia Caretta) and the
green turtle (Chleonia Mydas). This year is the first time in the four years of
monitoring that Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) nests were found on
northern Ambergris Caye. “For the first time in the four years that we are
doing this monitoring, we found two hawksbill turtle nests and the eggs have
” said the marine biologist. Hawksbill turtles are listed as a
critically endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of
Nature (IUCN).
While monitoring is mainly concentrated along the Robles Beach
and Rocky Point Beach, this year nests were found on the Basil Jones and Punta
Azul beaches. Once a nest is found the team, comprising mainly of marine
biologists, take a look at the eggs to estimate when they were laid and the
expected hatching date. The turtle nest is marked using a GPS to prevent the
wider public from locating the nests. Depending on the species of the marine sea
turtle, eggs can take between 40 to 90 days to hatch.
Even though finding the
turtle nests seems positive, there is a major concern;
residents are poaching turtle eggs for consumption and so far at least four
nests were discovered to have been poached by humans. “One of the things we are
finding is that there has been an increase of people poaching turtle nests. Four
nests south of Basil Jones were poached by humans. We know its human and not
animals because of the characteristics in which the poached nests have been
found. We just want to remind the public that sea turtles are internationally
listed as endangered and it is illegal to have turtle eggs and turtles in their
possession,” said Foreman. Under the Laws of Belize, it is illegal to be in
possession of turtle carcasses or eggs since turtles.
Monitoring is conducted
throughout the turtle season until the last recorded nest has hatched. The team
of biologists combs the beaches searching for nests after which it is marked and
monitored during the course of the season. Once the turtles have hatched the
biologists inspect the nest to determine the species, count the remaining
unsuccessful hatchling and egg shell which will determine the clutch size,
hatching success and emergence success.
Residents are being asked to report
any citing of turtles on the beaches or human pouching of turtle nests to the
Hol Chan Marine Reserve at 226-2247 or 2262420. Park rangers continue to monitor
the beaches along with law enforcement agencies to collect data that are used to
measure and analyze turtle populations in Belize. Female turtles are known to
return to nest on the beach that they were hatched on. It is estimated that only
one in every 1,000 turtle hatchlings survive to sexual maturity.
San Pedro Sun