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Urban growth giving turtles a rough time

Date Posted: 2006-02-04

Sea turtles are having a tough time getting a start on life, and itís not going to get any easier.

Thatís the opinion of scientists at the Japan Sea Turtle Convention held at Taketomi Island, part of Yaeyama Islands Group. The weekend convention centered on the plight of sea turtles, who are seeing white sandy beaches eroding and making breeding a crisis situation.

Ten specialists note that seaside environmental changes caused by humans are behind the turtlesí problems. Beaches are being intruded upon by business, and seawalls are sprouting up everywhere, reducing the natural spaces where turtles can lay their eggs. The increases in buildings dotting the beach landscape further aggravates the problem because turtles become disoriented returning to their eggs.

One official says baby turtles are losing their way, often because rivers and manmade waterways are confusing. The specialists say 40 turtles they found in September would have died without their help. Turtles mistaking rivers for the open seas suddenly find themselves facing predators who eat them. Other turtles are wandering onto paved streets looking for the way back to the ocean.

For many would-be mothers, that is a danger. The turtles wonít lay eggs if they arenít comfortable, so return instead to the water without depositing the eggs on the sand.

In the local study two months ago, scientists documented 680 turtles making it ashore to lay their eggs at more than 300 sites. They say 45.8% of the turtles laid their eggs on concrete and asphalt roadways. Scientists are appealing to contractors and developers to be more mindful of nature as they design new projects.

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