Sea turtles return to beaches around the world amid coronavirus pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrific time for humans, it has been a time of relief for nature – and the latest beneficiaries of the crisis are the world’s sea turtles.
The marine creatures, which find nesting on sandy beaches difficult due to crowds and pollution, are thriving while humans are cooped up indoors.
As the northern hemisphere enters spring, sea turtles appear to be nesting in record numbers in countries such as the United States, Costa Rica, Brazil, Thailand and India.
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“There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans,” David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, told Associated Press.
Mr Godfrey explained sea turtles need to be undisturbed when nesting on beaches and hatchlings tend to get distracted by lights from beachfront areas.
They also risked being struck and killed by water vessels or marine rubbish.
But with the tourists gone and beachside activity on pause, the turtles are finding it easier to nest.
“All of the potential positive impacts relate to changes in human behaviour,” he told CBS News.
“The chances that turtles are going to be inadvertently struck and killed will be lower, (and) the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment.”
Florida has reported record numbers of nesting of loggerheads and vulnerable leatherbacks.
“It’s going to be a really good year,” Sarah Hirsch, senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, told Florida’s CBS12 News.
“Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.”
In Thailand, authorities have found 11 leatherback nests — the highest number in 20 years, Reuters reported.
“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans,” Phuket Marine Biological Center director Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong said.
“If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach.”
Brazil is also seeing a boom in nesting. The town of Paulista has seen hundreds of turtles hatch already this season, including 100 critically endangered hawksbill turtles in a single day.
“It’s really beautiful because you can see the exact instant they come out of the eggs and … watch their little march across the beach,” Paulista environmental secretary Roberto Couto told The Guardian.
“This time, because of coronavirus, we couldn’t even tell people it was happening.”
It isn’t just sea turtles that have benefited from the coronavirus pandemic keeping humans confined indoors.
Smog has cleared up in New Delhi and the Himalayas have been visible, canals have cleared up in Venice, and animals have roamed more freely.
“It is giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet,” conservation scientist Stuart Pimm of North Carolina’s Duke University told AP.
“This is giving us an opportunity to magically see how much better it can be.”