Two recent news stories have caught my eye, both revolving around the same order of species*, showing the different and unpredictable ways our impact on the environment can affect vulnerable creatures. The stories are about sea turtles, all seven species of which are listed as being threatened or endangered. CITES** protects all species of turtle, while 115 countries have banned import or export of turtle products.
The first story, reported on Channel Four, was of a positive nature. It cited The Marine Conservation Society’s findings that, although facing extinction in pacific waters, Leatherback turtles, the largest species, seemed to be increasing in number in waters of the northern hemisphere – including waters around Britain. It is reckoned that the surge is due to waters being warmer and an increase in jellyfish, Leatherback prey, caused by over fishing.
Unfortunately, the second story was not so positive. Reported by Florida Today, it claimed that tropical storm Irene had ‘unearthed and killed unhatched and just-hatched endangered sea turtles or kept hatchlings from making their way into the ocean’. The article seemed to suggest that the turtles most affected had been Loggerhead turtles, which hatch at this time of year and don’t bury their eggs as deep as other species.
Both stories show change in environment affecting species that are very much ‘on the edge’. Despite having outlived the dinosaurs, sea turtles, like sharks, are some of the oldest creatures on the planet, having survived for 200 million years, and now are under serious threat. The jellyfish surge, created by over fishing, is only a positive spin-off of a practice that causes great damage to turtle numbers; and increasingly severe tropical storms, like Irene, could have continuing negative effects on such vulnerable creatures. Two stories, two human causes, two very different results.
*I hope I have used and identified this phrase and category correctly. My understanding is that sea turtles are the ‘order’, hopefully, I am right.
**Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species