Thursday, January 3, 2008

Saving Endangered Turtles in Hawaii

Nearly 70,000 endangered Hawksbill turtles have hatched in Hawaii, thanks to the dedicated volunteers and staff of the Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project, based out of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Since the Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project started in 1989, staff and volunteers have tagged 81 nesting hawksbills, protected 656 nests, and helped nearly 70,000 hatchlings scurry to the sea. Last season, volunteers helped more than 4,300 hatchlings safely reach the Pacific Ocean.

Each hatchling represents hope for the survival of the endangered turtle species.

Their efforts have just been recognized -- by receiving the 2007 Hawaii’s Living Reef Award, created three years ago by the Coral Reef Outreach Network.

During a six-month nesting season, forty volunteers searched beaches for signs of turtle activity. Nests were discovered and protected at five beaches. Crews held around the clock vigils on thirty-six nests to safeguard the eggs and hatchlings from predators, including mongooses, feral pigs and cats -- and human predators, too.

The project operates on a small budget and relies on dedicated volunteers who hike miles over lava rock to camp on remote, sun-baked beaches. These volunteers are not deterred by centipedes, pounding surf, or tropical storms. In addition to helping hatchlings, the volunteers collect the turtles’ tag data and record their life histories.