Staff & Wire service, 20 April 2021
Almost 3,000 baby green sea turtles, the largest individuals ever released in the Amazon in a single mass event, made their way south through the rainforest on Thursday.
The turtles were nursed by volunteer turtle keepers while their parents were killed by fishermen and oil workers. From the past three years, a mass release of these juveniles at the Meritá Bridge on the northern Peruvian coast – the symbolic meet-up point of the mid-sized turtles – has been a crucial campaign for their survival.
The local village of Arre Chica releases thousands of baby turtles. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP
After getting pushed out of the traditional turtle den, they have since been using hundreds of volunteers to scoop them up and get them out of the forest, bringing their tiny bodies to the remains of a small turtle bridge to be packed into wheelbarrows and then released.
But the main point of the event – and it is the largest ever in the rainforest – is to show the world just how many turtles have been lost to the fury of the world’s fast-growing seas.
“When the turtles have been rescued, nurtured, and are placed into chains for transportation to their new home at Meritá Bridge, one of the main things we want people to see is that for millions of years, their life has been threatened by human activities,” said Adam Dheilo, a naturalist and an organiser of the release.
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Such efforts have been largely behind the recent global decline in sea turtle numbers, experts say. The population of turtles for humans to eat has been growing. Fish, sharks, sharks, sardines, cod, shrimp, petrifying shrimp, sharks, and sealife are now eaten from British beach pubs to US beachfronts. In the past, turtle eggs were collected. Today, most hatchlings are picked up and killed by small boats, when all evidence suggests they would have much rather survived.
The turtles themselves are small compared with their more famous cousins: ocean-going giants that weigh up to 10 times as much. A single one, a weakling called the Pembina Farrior, is believed to be weighing as little as 45 grammes when it hatches.
Even the largest large turtles, about 75 or 80 kilograms, have seven-grammes bones, making them much better eaters than most birds and mammals. A single turtle’s impressive bones are nourished by the oxygen in the water they swim in.
The turtle at the Meritá Bridge, which is used to be a bridge between the towns of Naurjo and Arre Chica. Photograph: AP
But as many as one-third of all green turtles have been killed as they leave their homes to go search for food or nesting sites. In the past 12 years, a third of the turtles just measured 4-5cm at birth, have only known the sea on a few occasions and are considered non-releasable.
Their mission, in other words, is to find a place with clean water and food, and live again.