Once, Twice, Three Times a Turtle: A Local Reflection

Bees, Trees and Turtles

Along with rain forest deforestation and honeybee colony-collapse disorder talk in recent decades, the plight of the sea turtles has come onto our radar as a serious environmental concern.  Deforestation affects many other species of plants and animals—not to mention the oxygen supply and possible overall weather patterns.  The honeybee issue is atrocious in its severity although much of the general human population hasn’t realized it yet but may if our food supply is abruptly altered one of these days.   Meanwhile I live in south Florida where it so happens that a few endangered species of sea turtles come to nest annually including the Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtle.  As a child growing up on the east coast here in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to come across a nest of turtle eggs and there were no public pushes to “save them”—little did I know that one day I’d be a grown-up where turtle talk would be critical to our survival in addition to those of other plants animals such as the bees and trees.

Turtle Walk: Not What First Comes to Mind

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is located in Juno Beach, Florida and their website is www.marinelife.org .  It turns out they have something called a “Turtle Walk” where attendees arrive on a scheduled evening and learn more about the details of the sea turtles’ habits and the kind of research and direct assistance to the sea turtles that the LMC provides through generous donation of volunteer time and public donations.  At the same time, there are “spotters” in communication with staff indoors as to whether there is a turtle sighting—they inform if is there a female turtle approaching the shore in order to lay her eggs in the dark.   If a turtle comes ashore that matches the species allowed by state permit for LMC to view with a tour then the visitors are chaperoned down to the shore in the nighttime with the assistance of red flashlights that will not hamper or scare the turtle.  The general purpose of this Turtle Walk is to educate visitors through education and viewing in real-time the tedious work of a sea turtle to try against many odds to secure the next generation’s survival.

Last Tuesday: No Turtle Show

I had the opportunity to participate in a Turtle Walk event last Tuesday at the LMC in Juno Beach.  Unfortunately our group didn’t have the chance to view a turtle laying in real-time, however, the information I was able to learn in a couple of hours from some of the staff that evening was really enlightening.  Among my favorites: learning that the water evacuating from the pipe from rehabilitation turtle tanks has been treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that affirms my intuition that has allowed my children and I to enjoy the water play by the shore from it, the fact that leatherback turtles are our best friends because they eat their weight in jellyfish(!) and that LMC’s presence in our area has helped to make significant changes that benefit humans as well as turtles with keeping the nearby beaches cleaner and calmer with less ambient light.  Also, “hot chicks, cool dudes” was the phrase coined to describe the fact in the 1980s biologists realized that sea turtles undergo temperature-dependent sex determination–i.e. the temperature of the sand encloses the egg nests on the shore will sway whether an egg hatches a male or female sea turtle.

Mean Green Clean

If you have had the opportunity to read some of my earlier blog posts you will already understand my anger about our shorelines being treated as an open sand landfill or ashtray—seriously, what possesses us humans to think it’s okay to discard our trash on purpose in a place we all share with each other and the other animal and plants?  On July 5th the LMC organized a beach cleanup and invited the public to come out and utilize tools to pick up any and all trash that could be found after a major holiday.  I brought one of my young children along and when faced with a tantrum I gently sang to him as to why we needed to clean up—for the turtles, for the trees, for the bees and for you and me.  It was both impressive and sad to see how much the public had left in the sands only inches and feet away from wooden markers indicating a sea turtle nest.  Although it is great to have public beach cleanups organized, I feel it’s incumbent upon anyone who steps on a beach to refrain from littering and to pick up any rubbish they see and properly discard.

Local Paper Highlights

Within the same week of attending a LMC Turtle Walk night and participating in a public beach clean up our local paper The Palm Beach Post had a fun Accent front page story entitled “On the trail of turtles” written by Barbara Marshall and photographs by Greg Lovett: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/lifestyles/on-the-trail-of-turtles/nYc6g/  It was a fun piece that highlighted a snippet of what volunteers, biologists and physicians do at the LMC to help ensure that the leatherback turtles who nest on our shores are able to continue their calling as part of our ecological balance in the ocean–did you know they may actually be natives of the Asian oceans? Also, they eat jellyfish, I repeat: THEY EAT JELLYFISH.  There is more to be written on the need to assist the sea turtles, of course, but it is good to see that the information continues to come out no matter how big or small.

Turtle Time

It is understandable that we can get so overwhelmed by any news that affects the survival of animal species, plants and the frightful fluctuations of our climate on this Earth—so that we actually are moved to not move, we become paralyzed and apathetic.  My hope is that we can at the very least become more aware of our immediate environment where we respectively live and do our best to assist outstanding issues with wildlife other concerns.  We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fact that we depend on each other and other building blocks in our physical world to survive and thrive as we strive to become a better human race overall.

R.V.S.Bean

Some newsworthy links:

recent article on honeybee CCD: http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/

recent article on rainforest destruction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22706402

Seashell Philosophy by She: Part 6 in a Series

Seashell Philosophy by She: Part 6 in a Series

I didn’t inquire with anyone when I decided yesterday to hit the beach with my sons early on a cloudless Friday morning.  It wasn’t until I was pulling into the parking lot at the Juno Beach Loggerhead beach park that I realized there was more commotion afoot besides the summer surf school for kids.  As we headed across the street to access the shoreline, we noticed the Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s van and a clear path marked by buckets filled with sand and poles strung together by white cords. By the way, if you’re local and interested: www.marinelife.org

The Sea Scene

This was a great morning for a homecoming as the ocean was beckoning with its waves crashing in a strong but gentle fashion during low tide. I set up camp with my boys and began to play in the sand with them in the shallows of the water that was coming out of a black pipe in the sand toward the ocean.  This is the water that is vacated from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) as it exits from each of the tanks housing the injured or baby sea turtles in their care.  It always makes me chuckle when people come by and ask me or other parents there if I/we know from where is this water’s origin. It usually goes a little bit like this:

“Excuse me, do you know what that water is your children are playing in?”

“Yes, thanks…”

“…It’s from the turtle place up there, you know, their tanks with food and their refuse, just coming out there…”

“…Yes, thanks so much for your concern, I know and am fine with it…”

“You are? It’s full of…”

“And the ocean is also full of countless creatures and organisms, and there are fisherman right there a quarter mile away doing their raw business off the side of the boat and you know, honestly, I’m most comfortable with my children playing in this water as I am with them eating dirt from the garden…again, thanks so much for your concern…”

It’s usually at this point that I witness the kind nodding by the person’s head followed by a non-comprehensible mumble under their breath as they turn away with bewilderment.  Perhaps I am taking a risk by allowing my children in this water: but at the same time if I dissected our movements every hour of every day I’m certain I would give myself ulcers over worry because of the constant barrage of peril I assault my innocent boys with on a daily basis.

Life is moving quickly enough right now and although I’m not advocating we live recklessly I do believe that we must focus more on learning and experiencing with others rather than nit-picking and worrying about every little detail—especially those things that we have limited to limited control over.

The Crowd Accumulates

As it turned out, the sea turtle release would be occurring in just over an hour after we had arrived at the beach.  During one of our snack breaks, my boys and I enjoyed sitting in the shade of our pop-up beach tent and we watched as more people descended onto the gradual slope of the shoreline behind the lines put up by the LMC.

There were all sorts of folks: people like me with small children, teenagers by themselves or reluctantly accompanying their parents, seniors, couples, school groups, camp classes, a group of special needs adults brought in with their counselors and at the myriad of genres goes on.   Everyone was coming together in close proximity with each other in the heat of the baking sand by the ocean this morning to witness a sea creature return home.

HOME: Where Is Home?

Once the LMC crew carrying the Loggerhead sea turtle named Tilly came to the shore the crowd simultaneously hushed and all tried in their respective ways to get a better look.  It is customary during these releases for the LMC staff to carry the sea turtle to the end of the path where it opens up to the actually shoreline where the water is kissing the sand with consecutive wet laps.

I’ve had the honor of witnessing a few of these releases and it always chokes me up to see the turtles just sit there for a moment when they are left alone on the sand surrounded by their caretakers and the public.  They look ahead and around tentatively for what may seem like minutes and then they usually take their steps toward the water without delay.

The moment they hit the water and start to swim away is always an emotional event experienced in so many ways by the crowd.  Some of us are obsessed with taking photos, others with making sure the children can watch this happening and still others trying to push forward to see more if possible.  This time around I personally tried to get a couple of photos, make sure my sons have a good view and then just watch this simple, beautiful event of an animal returning home.

Please forgive my high-flying philosophical tone: I cannot help have tears burn my eyes in the salty air when I see these sea turtles enter the shore break and slip away.  What is it like to really return home? Many of us have a cozy place we can refer to as our home but I’m recollecting that ache we all feel for our Home.  That peace that we are seeking but have different names for it and vastly different ways of seeking it throughout our lives by means of people, careers, wealth, drugs and alcohol, et cetera.

Turtle Release Aftermath

Tilly returned home in a swift display and the crowd quickly dispersed afterwards.  What remained were the beach dwellers like me who were in for the long haul of the day.  In south Florida the beach is the coolest place to be when the summer heat and humidity strikes and this past Friday was no exception.

As my sons played once again in the “turtle pee”* water stream at the shoreline, I wandered a little bit to check out the seashell availability.  It was slim-pickings but my heart was delighted because the best find that day was coming to the beach and being surprised with the honor of witnessing someone returning home.

Life is often full of unexpected events…we plan to do something and when we are trying to execute that plan we are met with a surprise twist that either modifies or completely nullifies those previous plans.  Either way, if we can accept the gift of that new circumstance then we will be well on our way to knowing what the peace feels like when we finally return Home ourselves.

Love Life,

R.V.S. Bean

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"