Sea turtles of different species have become somewhat of a poster child for all things climate change and plastic pollution-related, with dramatic pictures and rescue videos flooding our news feeds. However, conservationists have some good turtle-based news for once.
In Cambodia, nine green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) nests have been found along a remote island coastline. Combined. the nests contain hundreds of eggs that could be a lifeline for the threatened populations of sea turtles that call this area home.
Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. They feed on sponges and jellyfish and are vital to the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Green turtles are the only turtles that are strictly herbivorous as adults, eating mainly sea grasses and algae. While both populations are under threat from a warming ocean as well as pollution, green sea turtles face the problem of feminization from pollutants leading to only female offspring.
The team at Fauna and Flora has been searching for turtle nests in this area for many years, believing that the untouched coastline would make the perfect nest site for these marine reptiles. In March 2022, they finally received the news they had been hoping for: a nest had been discovered.
The team from Fauna and Flora has been working with the Cambodia Navy as well as volunteers to train them in turtle ID and nest location. There are now daily patrols to check for signs of turtles and their nests.
“For me, being part of this volunteer team is a joy, and witnessing sea turtle nests in Cambodia for the first time is a wonder.” said Chea Bona, the Cambodian Navy volunteer who made the first of the discoveries, in a statement sent to IFLScience.
As 2023 draws to a close, the team was thrilled to discover a further nine nests, with five confirmed and two already hatched.
“The dedication and commitment of our volunteers was not in vain. This significant evidence will play a crucial role in shaping policies and decision-making related to sea turtle conservation in Cambodia, which will contribute to the survival of these incredible species.” said Chandara Tak, a member of Fauna & Flora marine team in Cambodia.