Animals

Sea Turtles Are Thriving Now That Humans Are Stuck Inside

These turtles are enjoying the peace and quiet!

As stay-at-home orders continue around the world, more positive effects in nature are coming to light. Cities around the world are reporting reduced air and noise pollution, and researchers are guessing the oceans are quieter, too. Another silver lining for sea life? Turtles are flourishing as they mate and nest undisturbed.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) monitors 9.5 miles of beach in Florida, which supports nearly 5% of the world’s loggerhead sea turtle nests. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the center is currently closed to the public. However, they continue their lifesaving work of ocean conservation via sea turtle research and rehabilitation.

As part of their conservation efforts, LMC’s research biologists record sea turtle nests found at Juno, Jupiter-Carlin and Tequesta Beaches. As of publication, they have counted 111 leatherback turtle nests and 163 loggerhead turtle nests, for a total of 274 nests. This is reportedly far more than the average number this early in Palm Beach County turtle nesting season, which runs from March 1 to Oct. 31 annually.

As no people or dogs have been allowed on the beaches, the center is confident that the nests won’t be disturbed, allowing the hatchlings to thrive.

“We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment,” Sarah Hirsch, the senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, told CBS 12 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.”

IFL Science shared a photo of a baby sea turtle on Instagram along with news of LMC’s findings. “While much of the planet is staying at home due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, sea turtles appear to be taking advantage of the peace and quiet,” they posted. “While it’s still early in the season, the number of nests looks promising. It’s too soon to say whether this boost in numbers is directly attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown measures, but either way, it’s reassuring to see this fragile natural process continuing to tick on despite the wider problems in the world.”

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While much of the planet is staying at home due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, sea turtles appear to be taking advantage of the peace and quiet. At least 76 leatherback sea turtle nests have been found on Juno Beach in South Florida since the end of February, according to the Loggerhead Marine Life Center. While it’s still early in the season, the number of nests looks promising. It’s too soon to say whether this boost in numbers is directly attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown measures, but either way, it's reassuring to see this fragile natural process continuing to tick on despite the wider problems in the world. Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest living species of turtle, weighing up to 900 kilograms (just under 2,000 pounds) and measuring up to 1.8 meters (6 feet). Unlike other species of sea turtle, they don’t have a hard shell or scales but a back covered with firm rubbery skin. The species is considered vulnerable to extinction under the IUCN Red List and is thought to be suffering from declining numbers across the world. Image credit:greenmanyong/ Shutterstock

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Beach closures are helping turtles elsewhere, too. Researchers in Thailand have found more nests than usual on the beaches of Phuket, a major tourist destination.

“This may have positive impacts on the environment in marine conservation in the long term as well, ” Kanokwan​ Homcha-ai, a supervisor at the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, told CNN. “Not just sea turtles, but other marine species such as dolphins and dugong that live in the region have also increased in numbers according to government survey, such as hermit crabs and other food sources for marine animals.”