Turtle Returning To Nest In The Maldives Finds Airstrip Instead, Lays Eggs On Tarmac

Green sea turtles are endangered thanks to loss of habitat from human expansion among other things. Fremme/Shutterstock 

Sea turtles famously return to the same spot year after year to dig their nests and lay their eggs, the very spot where they themselves hatched and hauled their tiny asses to the sea many years before.

Having avoided being picked off by predators and surviving the incredibly unlikely journey into sexual maturity – only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive into adulthood – what happens when a sea turtle makes its way back to its nesting beach only to discover that beach no longer exists?

A rather sad report out of the Maldives relays this very problem, as a returning pregnant green sea turtle was found laying its eggs on the tarmac of a newly built airstrip on what was a historically popular nesting site on Maafaru island, in the Noonu atoll in the Maldives.

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According to local Maldives news outlet The Edition, the turtle made its way onto the runway and laid its eggs anyway, possibly confusing the warm tarmac with the warm sand it was expecting. However, it also reports that despite the bleak circumstances the turtle was returned to the sea by locals and was last seen in good health.

A source from the island’s council told The Edition: “Despite the construction of the runway, the frequency with which turtles visit the island for nesting purposes has not decreased.” 

However, this story highlights the increasing problem of human expansion in even incredibly remote places affecting local fauna through habitat loss, especially for creatures like the sea turtle, which is considered endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Maafaru airport is still under construction, but the runway already takes up 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) of the tiny atoll, and when it is finished, which is thought to be this summer, it will be able to accommodate six aircraft the size of Boeing 737s. There are further plans for a hotel and resort.

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development-funded airport, which reportedly cost $60 million, was a gift from the United Arab Emirates according to former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

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