Wednesday, July 25, 2018

National Parks: Padre Island National Seashore -- Turtles Part 4

I love listening to the lectures and informative talks about how we can save the endangered sea turtles and protect and revive our environment. Dr Donna Shaver gave a very interesting and important talk about the efforts to save the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle and the numerous organizations and volunteers that make it possible.

Shelby, the Padre Island National Seashore mascot, swearing in a new group of Junior Rangers, who promise to protect and do their best to help the environment and wildlife.

What was wonderful about this release day and celebration of 40 years of the saving the Kemp's ridley sea turtle program was not only we got to see the hatchlings get released in the morning, but we got to see the rare event of rehabilitated, bigger turtles, juveniles and adults who were injured and ill, get released after recovering at special care facilities. So many organizations who work with the National Park to protect, save, and heal the turtles showed up with lots of turtles we got to see up close and cheer as they took the water. There were green turtles, loggerheads, leatherbacks, Kemp's ridley, and the hawk's bill sea turtles.

These turtles survived injuries from shark attacks and illnesses and accidents. But they've been successfully rehabilitated and healed.

A few of them had only three flippers left. But we were assured by the experts that even with just three flippers, these turtles can and do thrive and survive in the wild. Some even returning to nest on these protected shores.

I have added some videos from 14 July 2018 Saturday that show the release of the rehabilitated sea turtles back to the sea. The vids are 21MB to 48MB in size. The pics above show the same turtles, so the vids are just a bonus, not a necessity.

Here are some short vids of cute and indefatigable turtles, survivors of injuries, illnesses, and harsh weather and predator attacks. They are living proof of the power caring and the will to survive and thrive. (21MB)

This feisty turtle was discovered as being stunned from the cold, so he couldn't swim and was in danger of dying as his systems were shutting down from the very cold temperatures. But he received great care and has healed and is ready to get back to the sea. Look at his energy! He is ready to go!

This fighter survived a shark fight! He lost his rear right flipper, but he was rescued, rehabilitated, and he is ready to get back to the sea. We were informed by the experts that even with just three flippers, sea turtles can and do thrive, reproducing, living long lives, and be just as active and healthy as turtles with all limbs. This fella has loads of energy and he is awesome! (48MB)

It was wonderful and uplifting to see this adult turtle, who has lived so long to have barnacles grow on its shell, recover and regain its strength and swim back out to the sea. (30MB)

Goodbye and Good Luck, Turtles! May good health, good luck, and good stewardship see you all live for over a century or two. Long may you swim happily and vigorously in the sea.

It was amazing and wonderful to see all these rehabilitated turtles survive and thrive and take back to the sea. I wish them well and hope they will live long, healthy lives. Sea turtles have been around for millions of years. Humanity is a newcomer, only less than 200,000 years on this world. Yet, our impact over the last hundred years has decimated the species and led to the extinction of of so many.

There is still time to save the endangered species. There is still time to protect our world. We only have one Earth, one planet, where we can live. This is it. We have to take care of it if we want to continue to live on it. We have to care about our world and all the species in it. Because if we don't, who will? Life will go on, with or without us. I would rather be here and be a part of life on Earth. I want to behold and witness and be a part of all that makes our world a beautiful, magnificent, and amazing place.

Friday, July 20, 2018

National Parks: Padre Island National Seashore -- Turtles Part 3

A lot of time, work, and volunteers help protect the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle. And among the most helpful and hard working are the search and rescue dogs:

Just chillin on the beach with shades and fancy footwear. The shades protect the dogs eyes and the footwear protect the feet from debris and hot sand. Often, the search areas for hard to find nesting sea turtles are in the wild, undeveloped stretches of sand, miles and miles away from civilization.

These adorable and friendly dogs are part of a search and rescue team. These dogs belong to an awesome organization called K9s4conservation. They help find turtle nests that need protection from the predators and help locate nests that humans can't find. They are an extremely useful and wonderful organization. And the dogs they use are from shelters.

I love the turtle shell costume on the little dog.

So many people and organizations work together to help save the turtle. That includes the National Park Service, The Fish and Wildlife Service, a lot of scientists, environmental organizations, and volunteers from the US and Mexico and all over the world.

There was ample opportunity to educate the public on the plight of the sea turtles and how we can help protect and save all these endangered species.

One of the best ways to promote and educate the public about the plight of and ways to save the endangered turtles is through art. And I love art! These masterpieces were created by middle school and high school students that bring focus and celebrate the efforts to save the endangered sea turtles. These are some amazing art work from the children. Please click on the pic or right click and open in new tab/window to see a larger size of the pictures. These artworks are spectacular!

This is a really unique and creative panel below. Note how the top middle six pieces all combine to make one large tableau. They are all connected. Pretty cool!

It was wall to wall art. And I absolutely love it! So did the rest of the public as we oohed and ahhed over the pieces:

This piece made me stop in my tracks. I would love a shirt or t-shirt with that really cool print! Tribal and evocative!

This piece made me do a double take. It's a Pokemon! It's Squirtle!

More fantastic artwork. I love the use of vibrant color and the mix of materials.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is definitely Squirt from Finding Nemo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the panel below.

And now, close ups of some of my faves:

I love this tribal art stylized turtle! Definitely makes a great T shirt or large print wall hanging.

Awesome poster! Great message.

This one makes creative and innovative use of fabric! Yes, fabric!

And this one is all glitter! They put glitter over the paint! Sparkly! Luv it!

This is one of two pieces that are painted on bandanas! Pretty cool!

It's the Pride Turtle, all rainbow!

This is a marvelous 3 dimensional piece. They add what looks like string and cups and other objects to create this work. Very creative!

Another awesome shirt or t-shirt print! I love the tribal art style of this piece!

It's Sponge Bob Square Pants!

And finally, we come to the most intriguing and unique piece in all of the exhibition. This one made me pause and go, "What the...?"

No, your eyes are fine. That is a talon grabbing a hatchling! And I don't think it's giving that poor baby turtle a ride to the sea! While all the other art was happy or vibrant or had a positive message, this one was stark, dark, and terrifying! Very realistic and in your face about the rawness and savage reality of nature. I was captivated by the stunning image! I don't know whether this is a work of genius or a cry for help! I can't decide if I ought to give this kid kudos or an intervention! Probably both! This is some really dark and graphic, intense work here. And I love how the National Park embraced it and put it on display!

Art is a powerful medium to tell a story and get a message across. And these young artists did a magnificent job of focusing the attention and celebrating the hard work and efforts that are needed to save an endangered species. Our actions matter, no matter how small, they can have a big impact. So take action to protect our world and all the species in it. We only have one world we can live on. If we don't take care of the Earth, who will? We have had a huge impact on the ecosystem and the species all across the world. It's only natural and essential that we do better and clean up our messes and help make our world a better, cleaner, healthier, and nurturing place for all life on Earth. It's our home. Let's take care of it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

National Parks: Padre Island National Seashore -- Turtles Part 2

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle is most critically endangered sea turtle. It is also the smallest and rarest. I've been to enough presentations and read the materials to summarize the history of this species:

Once, Spanish conquistadors reported having to lower their sails as to not crash into the massive herds of Kemp's ridley sea turtles that seem to swamp the Gulf of Mexico. But no one knew where they nested. For a long time, it was thought that these turtles were probably the infertile hybrid of other turtle species. But then fishermen found that these turtles were pregnant with eggs. So they were a species, but no one knew where these mysterious turtles nested.

In 1940s, Architect Andreas Herrera, who regularly visited Mexico and flew his own plane, was hunting down leads of where this turtle was sighted emerging from the sea. In the summer of 1947, he made an incredible discovery. At Nuevo Rancho beach in Tamaulipas, Mexico, he witnessed thousands of these sea turtles emerging from the sea. He recorded the event on film. He tried to spread the word to the scientific community and leaders to do something to protect the sea turtles.

He was concerned that in addition to seeing the thousands of sea turtles, he recorded many people digging up the eggs, flipping over the big turtles, and taking the turtles to butcher for meat and to eat and sell their eggs, supposedly for aphrodisiac purposes!

By the 1960s, scientists finally discovered the film and raced down to see the Nuevo Rancho site. The film recorded an estimated 45,000 sea turtles in 1947. When the scientists got there in the 1960s, the population had plummeted to only 700! Poaching, unsound fishing practices, and other factors had destroyed the population and put them on the brink of extinction!

Emergency action was taken by many concerned people to save the species. And so, the work began to save the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle. And that work continues to this day. And though the turtles are slowly recovering, they still need our help. We can be better people and help save the species.

The nets and streamers keep the predatory birds, like pelicans and especially those filthy flying rats--seagulls--from swooping down to eat the little hatchlings. We are told beforehand by the park rangers not to wave our hands to chase away the seagulls. The seagulls have learned from watching humans that the waving of hands means that there is food to be taken! That's why there are signs posted not to feed the animals, because then, animals like seagulls will lose their instinctive fear of humans and start targeting people for food, swooping down to steal them! Even worse, some human food is very bad for birds! So please listen to the park rangers and stop feeding the damn seagulls!

Dr Donna Shaver and the team release the hatchlings right as the sun rises, to help the hatchlings imprint on the beach and learn to come back to this location for nesting. Notice how the team wears gloves to keep their scent from interfering with the imprinting process. We are asked not to wear white, as the hatchlings may mistake the bright white clothing as the sun and get disoriented, heading towards the white clothing instead of towards the sea where the sun is rising. We are also asked not to bring any food, as that may attract predators, like coyotes and seagulls, which prey on hatchlings.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the only species that nest in the day. The females lay 50 to 100 eggs in a clutch. And in the late spring to summer season, the females may lay two to three times, then take the following year off. When the turtles lay their eggs, they enter a trance state, where they tune everything out. This is the time the scientists take measurements and make observations of the turtle. It is also when the turtle is most vulnerable, especially since they like to nest in the tracks of soft sand made by vehicles. And they are prone to get run over because they blend well with the sand and they won't get out of the way. That's why teams patrol the beaches to spot and protect nesting or injured or ill turtles.

As with other reptiles, the temperature in the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. Higher temperatures lead to more females. So the eggs near the top, close to feel the heat of the sun, are females. The eggs towards the bottom turn out to be males.

Once they grow up to be adults, the females will return to lay their eggs. But the males will live our their lives at sea.

The team knows that the hatchlings are ready to hatch out of their shells by their activity. In their special sand incubators, the hatchlings start to move towards the surface, from a depth of a foot or so. The first hatchers create enough movement to cause the sand to form a divet, a hole, in the top of the sand. That signals that the frenzy, the act of crawling out the sand and towards the sea will begin soon, at the next sunrise. And since these are reptiles, cold blooded--unable to regulate their own body temperature, they need the warmth of the sun and a little time to get moving, and some late hatchers take a bit more time to wake up and warm up to get moving.

These are the little ones the park rangers bring around to show us. And after a little time warming up in the ranger's hands, the hatchling is ready to join their siblings all ready in or headed towards the sea. Then they are released and guarded as they make their way toward the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Please, No Flash Photography. The bright light disorients the hatchlings and ruins the imprinting process. Cute little babies, aren't they?

It takes 10 to 12 years for the baby hatchlings to mature. So, it will be at least 10 long years before we see the females from this clutch return to nest on these shores. Let's hope these babies all survive and thrive to adulthood.

Have a safe journey, little hatchlings! Y'all come back, now, ya hear!?!