If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit one of the Florida, South Carolina or North Carolina beaches that border the Atlantic ocean in the summer months, you may have seen areas taped off for the protection of sea turtle hatchlings. On this episode we will discuss the endangered species of loggerhead sea turtles that often grace our southern beaches.
Each year between May and August, female loggerheads leave their ocean home to nest on the coast. They dig a large hole in the dry area of the beach near the sand dunes, deposit an average of 117 eggs and then cover up the nest to protect it from predators. It is believed that they nest on the beach where they were hatched even decades earlier! Resources Mentioned:
- Folly Beach Turtle Watch program: https://www.facebook.com/follyturtles/
- Movie: Turtle: The Incredible Journey: https://amzn.to/3NuU66z
- IMAX Movie - Turtle Odyssey: https://www.imax.com/movies/turtle-odyssey
- Kid’s Movie: A Turtle’s Tale: https://amzn.to/3NtCVT4
- National Geographic Show: The Great Migration: https://amzn.to/3miFYBh
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If you've ever had the opportunity to visit one of the Florida, South Carolina or North Carolina beaches that border the Atlantic Ocean in the summer months, you may have seen areas taped off for the protection of sea turtle hatchlings. Join us at the table as we discussed the endangered species of Loggerhead sea turtles that often grace our southern beaches.
I'm Lainie, And I am Laura Beth, And we are Steel Magnolias,
the strength of steel with the grace of a magnolia. We are here to have uplifting conversations about life in the south.
And we’ve got plenty of room at our table, So pull up a chair.
Welcome back to another dose of your southern culture for the week. Hope y'all are having a good week I want to go ahead and wish my sister a happy birthday when this episode releases, she will have already celebrated but so thankful to celebrate another year of your life and all the wonderful things that God's bringing into your life and into our podcasts together and much just goodness good season. So happy birthday.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
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Okay, it is vacation season. Many of you are vacationing in the very places that we are going to be discussing today. So we thought it was very apropos to talk about Loggerhead sea turtles.
Yeah, so this is the world's largest hardshell turtle. Slightly larger at average and maximum weight than the green sea turtle, which is also huge. And the Galapagos tortoise. Wow. I want to go to the Galapagos Islands. I knew you were gonna say that. Well, I've been fascinated with that area before because they have so many species that are only there. I just think it was fun to see. Yeah. And you know, I like travel.
Huge head large head on these guys that hence the name in it supports this really powerful jaw muscles that enable them to free on very hard shelled prey like a conch, like you've seen, you know, you may have seen that on the shore line before. But yeah, they're chopping through some really hard surfaces. Once they're big once they're big. Yeah. So this is the thing is, this is an endangered species. We'll talk about why in a minute. But when they're little, you know, just just born or even those first years that they are getting going. They are prey to a lot. Yes of things. Even crabs when the firstborn. Oh, you know, so it's like, wow. You can see why there would be not many of them that make it to further life. Yes. Okay. Yes.
So the endangerment is the infancy stage. Really, right. Yeah. Yeah.
So in the Atlantic Ocean, the greatest concentration of loggerheads is along that southeastern coast bordering you know, the Atlantic. And it was really fascinating to me that I looked up on a map global map of where the concentration of these loggerheads are born. Okay. And second from that Atlantic Coast coastline was Japan so I'm like, this is just really interesting. There's other places too, but those were the
top two. So jumped on here, Japan, that seems weird. And so
I just think that's pretty cool that God gave us these creatures that we get born on our beaches. Yes, yeah. So anyhow, sorry, go ahead. Now. Well, the mothers will lay these hatch lanes in the sand.
Yeah, this is something that's unique is they only come ashore once there Adult Yes, the adult mothers to lay the eggs. Yes. Other than that they're out there out there in the water. Yeah, that's where they live traveling the world. And this
is happening now May through August is really the timeframe of when you're going to see this.
See that having them lay that? Yeah, yeah. And I think it's unusual to see one lay in the day. I think they usually lay in the night. Okay. I believe that's right. And the incubation is around 80 days.
Okay, so they dig this huge hole, which that even that I'm just like, I really wish without encroaching upon them. I could watch all this go down, right, this huge hole has to be dug in, like you were saying in a very dry area of the beach. So that has to be that has to come pretty close to where you're going to be seeing oceanfront condos and townhomes now, which that didn't used to be an issue. Yeah. So here's another reason they're endangered.
Yeah. So yeah. So then they they deposit their eggs, right. I can't remember the number of eggs they lay did hundreds.
It's like 117. I think it was the average number? Yeah, but again, that is, you know, it's kind of sad, because not even all of them will make it to hatch. Right? The eggs get eaten by crabs, and seagulls and all kinds of things. Yeah. And then once they do start to hatch, this is so amazing. If you've ever seen I mean, we'll just have to maybe in the show notes, we can tell where you can watch some videos or something. I have a couple places, okay. They just hatch out and they got to dig their way out of that hole. They got to make their way up out of that big hole. Yes. And to the water. Yes. And that is quite a feat for these little tiny things to do.
So again, can you imagine getting to see these little Itty Bittys just I have a picture in my head. And I don't know if that's because I've seen a movie or documentary or something. But I can picture in my head like the maiden voyage into the water of just hundreds. And so seagulls are swooping down. Crabs are trying to get them you know, but a lot of them some of them will make it all the way to the water and swim out.
Now. I know we're gonna be talking about specific places in a little bit. But I do want to go ahead and say in this point, Edisto Island in South Carolina, they offer nighttime Ranger guided walks to try and catch a glimpse of the turtles.
Oh, that's cool, because you get I'm sure they do it well, where you know, they make sure you're messing with them at a distance. And yes, yes. Well, one of the things that so fascinates me about not just Loggerhead sea turtles, but a lot of the sea turtles that are born on I think the green seats turtle is the same in this regard. They bury on land. I mean, they bury on land. But once they've made it into the ocean, they're a grown adult. They're traveling the world. Yes. When it when the female, two to four years old, I think is when they start to then be unable to lay. Okay, yeah. They go back to their very same beach they were born on to lay their eggs. Blows my mind.
So, like, I want to make sure everyone catches that. So it's believed that the nest on the beach where they were hatched decades earlier is where they are returning back to now hatch their own.Yes. Like it could be it could be decades. Yes. It could be a couple of years. But some of these could also be decades. Coming back every time and so yes, there's no place like home. But also, that really does show that. Well, for one, I think they're a lot more aware. Probably then I would give a turtle credit for if it understands, you know.
I’m not sure. You know, we're not scientists. I'm not sure that it's like an actual brain understanding so much as it's like an internal knowing. That's a good distinction. Yes, I think they're now proving that this is actually has to do with the magnetic field of the Earth. Uh huh. I'm sorry. That's still God given.
But anyhow, so in their tracks, you know, because now they can, like, all of this blows my mind to follow their migration by tagging that, like they'll tag them. Yeah. And then they can follow the migration pattern and that's how they know they come back exactly the same very same beach and all of that so wild, maybe I should have been a marine biologist. So, they aren’t just recognizing I've seen this guy here before. Yeah, he's actually or she excuse me has actually been tagged.Yeah. So anyhow, I I read an article that says it's as if they have an internal compass. And it really kind of made me laugh because I'm like, because they do, right. God gave them this internal compass that pulls them. Yes. It's also the Earth's magnetic field, but it's pulling them back to the home base. Yes. And that came from an article that I read from National Geographic by Carrie Arnold in 2015.
Wow. Anyhow, that's so good. Well, I've seen one of these. I saw one in Poipu Hawaii. And I was in a swimming area at the beach. And I don't mean I saw a hatchling. I mean, I saw probably a 250 pound Loggerhead which is what they can get up to. Unreal. And it was a spectacle. Did you get pretty close to it? Yes. Okay. There when this was a lifeguarded Beach, which is pretty rare. Honestly, in Hawaii, there's a lot of beaches that they don't want you as well. They don't want you swim in on because they don't have a lifeguard you know, so. So there happened to be a lifeguard but the the lifeguard is was not deterring anyone but was also like, pretty mindful of keeping a radius but everybody was people were just probably honestly scared to get too close. But I mean, look like this massive seal in the why it was so big. So it was actually on the shore. But no, it was in the water. Swimming because I don't think they come out on the shore much unless they're hatching. Yeah, no, this was think they like
swimming in the swimming area. But yeah, like I thought it was like, I don't know what I thought it was. I didn't think it was a turtle crocodile. It was so big that I was like ruled out turtle a long time ago. They are massive and beautiful, though. Like I was like, I feel like I'm looking at a page of a children's book right now. They just are so unique. And they have that sort of friendliness look about them even though you know they are. If you got close to that snout, it could take your fingers off.
And then there's also a Loggerhead Key, Florida, which I wanted to mention, they are obviously named for the abundance of loggerhead turtles that are found on the island. And today it is the largest green and loggerhead turtle nesting in the Florida Keys. Okay, so it's an island. So yeah, so they have nearly 15,000, turtles hatch, they're each summer. Whoa, no one lives there. It is. Oh, so here is why there are so many of them.
It's a whole island. It's a whole island. It's under about 50 acres. I think it was 49 acres in size, solitary experience. Because, you know, that's what's needed to keep these going. The theory does not go there. You would only you'd have to access it by a private boat. In order to get there. There might be some scientists that live out there but have a base that would be it.
Predators. Let's talk about that. Again. There's so many so when they're when they're knit in their egg, worms, beetles, ants, snakes, gulls, possums, bears, rats, skunks, armadillos, cats, you know, like wild cats or wild dogs, even wild pigs. I forget that. When they're a little bit bigger, or even juvenile- crabs, fish, eels, all kinds of things will eat them when they're still little. Right. So, you know, not a lot of them actually make it to where they're big enough to be more protected. Right, you know, and you're talking about not the the egg but they already hatched. I was heard Oh, yeah. Okay, that's still Yeah,
I mean, an issue when they're short little Yes. They're they're just so susceptible. Their heads and backs or, you know, their little shells are not very big and thick. Yeah. So they're just very susceptible. So another thing that's been an issue with these becoming endangered, in times of late is all of the development that's happening. You mentioned oceanfront condos. Yes, all of that that have gone up on these beaches. And in these turtles, there's like an internal God given knowing yes, that when they come out, they need to follow the reflection of the moon. That takes them to the water. Yeah, that's what they're looking for is the light because they usually hatch in the night. Yes, occasionally in the day, but it's usually at night. Yes. And so they are looking for that the reflection of the moon is gonna take me to the water even that, in my opinion, is God given because I'm good So God knew we would enjoy beaches. We people, we humans, those that would be enjoying nature and the beauty that is ocean. And so there's a lot more people that are gonna enjoy a beach during the day.
Even at night. That's right. So have these guys come out in the night? That's right. Well, one of the problems is artificial light messes this up. Yeah. Cuz they start to go towards the light of the big condo, right? Yeah. And they're getting further from the water. And they're tiny, right? So now they're gonna dehydrate and die on the shore. Because they can't get to the water. They thought they were going the right way. And now they can, or something's gonna get them. Right. You know? Yeah, it was already waiting for them. So because they're now endangered. We there's lots of rules qn the beaches about artificial lighting. Yes. And I guess in my mind even knowing that that was the case, I thought that meant you know, spotlights outdoor lights. I did too. Oh, no, that's not just your outdoor lights. That's all lighting. Your television that shining through. I had no idea your oceanfront condo. Yeah. So I've rented places before that had a house rule on putting quotes to shut off exterior lights by 10pm or sometimes even earlier, like 9pm. But I have stayed in places where I mean, that is highlighted, starred exclamation points. And I was just always thinking, Oh, I guess that's nice for the turtles. I didn't realize how life critical it was. It really was. Yeah. Well, I have a friend that lives on that Edisto Island. And he told me, you know that they're real mindful with their exterior lights. But he was like, I didn't realize even the interior lights. Like why if you don't have your curtains pulled, he said, I've gotten a knock on the door, you know, by the patrol. Well, gotta close the curtains. You can't have your curtains open now. Well, past whatever the time is. So it is interesting that there's so much effort put into this to protect this species so that we continue to have them right. And so so if you're looking at oceanfront property, and you are a patio dweller, just know from May to October better have some drapery, there's gonna be some life changes in your world. If you're not Yeah, looking for trouble looking for a patrolman knocking on the door. It's interesting, too. If you live in these areas, you're like, Well, yeah, people do that. But you know, I never lived on the beach. So there's even a lot of organizations where you can take an hour, you know, you volunteer to walk from here to here. Yes, for an hour. And if you see any sign of a nest or anything, you're to report so they can block it off. Yeah, you know, it takes a village to it does.
It does and in fact, there's some that are a little hyper in terms of not wanting you to post a picture on social media that you found it because people are people. Yeah. And they'll, they're gonna dig horrible. Yes, they're curious and they want to see the hatch lanes and interesting. And so there's a lot of organizations that I saw and just looking stuff up that are like, please don't post it, please just email us because people even if you're posting it, that know the vicinity can sometimes tell they might know that block of condos or you know what I mean? Yeah. And so they start digging on their own and so yeah, it's it's a big deal. Very big deal on on how it gets reported. And like you were saying to, you know, ensure the survival of the eggs. There's, I know North Myrtle Beach all the way to Hilton Head Island. They walk the beaches at dawn. Yeah. Hmm. Every morning, they're looking for this sea turtles or footprints, right? Oh, they're looking for footprint. That’s just funny. You'd see like the little how they're little right.
Yeah. You know, to, because that's, that's again, they got to get out there at dawn to make sure other foot traffic hasn't already covered that up. So they're looking for that untouched sand that they can detect that and yeah, then getting it roped off and covered with fencing to keep getting from trampled. And that's the other thing is you might very unknowingly be trampling something that you weren't for sure trying to me an offender or That's right.I can see maybe I'm like, Look at this big hole. Let's build the sand castle here. We've already got a moat.
Exactly. Yeah, I know. It's, ooh, it sounds silly. But yeah, just not knowing can cause some real big problems. So yes, the dawn volunteers are needed and are out there for sure. But the other thing that is hazardous for these hatchlings in these turtles is the just unintended capture in like fishing gear. Yes. And so and I say unintentional because I really do, you know, it's they're not there's not nets that people are out, but there's a lot that just gets discarded or, you know, unintentionally falls off a boat or rips off from a, you know, from equipment. And so that can cause drowning or injuries that lead to, you know, their eventual death. But you know, they can swallow hooks and plastic. I would think plastic is a danger too.
Yeah, I guess there's an actual, the term for unintended capture is bycatch. I wasn't familiar with the word bycatch, but that's what it is.
But I wanted to share too, that there is a recent good news story that came out of Folly Beach, South Carolina. And if you are really into this, I would encourage you, if you're on Facebook to check out the Folly Beach turtle Watch program on Facebook, so you can I'll link to it but you can search for folly turtles, but they had a recent story. So in the first month of the 2022 seasons, that's may they had a total of 18 nests that they were watching in the Folly Beach area only. Okay, now listen to this. So that was 2022 and 2021. In May, they had 10 nests. In 2020. They had nine nests. So we're promising stars good, because we are nowhere near the pace that was 2019. And so Okay, 2020 was hard on turtles too y'all. I'm not saying they had COVID but the pandemic hit all of us hard. But the South Carolina Aquarium which is there in Charleston, near Folly Beach, they had their first public turtle release in the in the past two years at the county park. Right at the end of May. They had six turtles that were released three loggerheads and three Kemp's Ridleys. I don't know much about that species, but I'm going to focus on the loggerheads. They were: Moonstone who was injured by two Stingray barbs, Sunstone, whose front left flipper was bitten off by a shark. Flipper is the word I was looking for earlier. Yes, Sunstone had a front left flipper that was bitten off by a shark, and Citrine who was suffering from debilitated turtle syndrome. I don't know what that is.
Anyway, they were all three of those loggerheads, the six total turtles they were released back into the water. There was a big turnout for the release, the community came out to cheer on them getting back into the water. So if you want to follow along that story looks really sweet.
Well, did you know the loggerhead sea turtle is the official state reptile of South Carolina? No, I did not, but it makes sense. It is also the state saltwater reptile of Florida. So, they are making their mark. I guess the reptile of Florida would be the gator. Ugh. I'll take a turtle.
Well, I wanted to mention some media because this is interesting to you. I've got more. Okay, so for one, there is a movie called Turtle: the incredible journey that I have not seen. Okay, I didn't have access to it. But that is a movie that specifically about loggerheads.
There's an IMAX movie called Turtle Odyssey. It's, about the green sea turtle, but similar kind of concept. And then I watched the cutest movie. I've now watched it twice with my nephew who's four. It says it's seven plus on the age recommendation, and there was a couple of things that I was like, Oh, that is a little bit older than four but not like inappropriate. It's called A Turtles Tale. It's about this green sea turtle named Sammy. Oh, is it cartoon? It's cartoon and is so stinking cute. Oh, okay. And so it addresses a lot of these issues like, you know, oil spills and predators in the water and just all of the things but it also it's really sweet because you see him as a hatchling. He has a hard time getting out of the out of the out of the hole. Yeah, but he finally does that's a whole journey, but he finally gets into the water and then it shows him as a grandfather. Oh my gosh. Did you cry? I teared up, it is the cutest little movie. A Turtle’s Tale.
And then I also want to mention if you're like a total science nerd, I may have watched a show called The Great Migration on National Geographic, not about loggerheads, but just about migration in general. So they go into monarch butterflies and red crabs and wow, that is fascinating to me- migration, how God set all of that, for our world to work in an ecosystem. That's so good. I love that anyhow, so sort of fun. There's some media for you to check out. Well, if you are vacationing, you have been warned. You may see some house rules posted in your property that you're careful with
your flashlights on the beach at night. I don't know what you're gonna mess up. Yeah. But if you are wanting to get close and do it the right way, check out what the nearby Rangers or what they're doing ocean organizations and see if anybody does take a walk or won't be so show you where these hatchlings might be. We have maybe I think we've got one more episode before we take our summer break. Yeah. And so we'll be back with you guys next week for another great episode on Southern culture. But until then, Lainie Peace be with you. And also with y’all!