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2014-05-01. Guarding the Nest.

posted May 11, 2014, 6:26 PM by Alan Gould
For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8. Excerpt: Loggerhead turtles have been laying eggs on Georgia's barrier islands for hundreds of years. Now local residents are working to ensure the threatened species' survival. ...Beginning this month, typically in the dead of night, pregnant sea turtles weighing as much as a Falcons lineman will emerge from the Atlantic Ocean, spend an hour digging holes with their rear flippers on the beaches of Georgia’s barrier islands, deposit a hundred or so eggs, repack the sand, and head back into the ocean. Over the course of the summer, a prospective mother might nest up to six times. ...The turtles that make it this far have already defied the odds, evading obstacles both natural (sharks and whales) and man-made (nets, boats, polluted waters). Not that their eggs have it much easier. Raccoons and feral hogs dig them up for a snack. Not long ago, children would dare one another to eat them raw. And in the past locals considered them something of a delicacy. Things got so bad that by the early 1960s, many nests on Little Cumberland Island would produce no viable hatchlings. In 1978 the loggerhead was listed by the federal government as threatened, on the cusp of being endangered. ... 2013 was a record year for nesting on the Georgia coast. Over fifteen beaches, loggerheads laid 2,289 nests—up forty-one from last year. It’s the fourth year in a row that the number of nests has increased, after years of yo-yoing that included a nadir of 358 in 2004.... http://www.atlantamagazine.com/features/2014/05/01/guarding-the-nest-georgia-loggerhead-turtles.  By Nikhil Swaminathan, Atlanta Magazine.