Photo: Leatherback turtle hatchlings (Scubazoo)
The beaches of Puerto Rico in 2013 had an all-time record number of 1,390 nests and 68,000 hatchlings of the leatherback turtle, the largest sea turtle in the world and one that is in danger of extinction in the Caribbean.
A spokeswoman of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of the Caribbean island told Efe Thursday that these are the highest figures ever registered since records began to be kept in the mid-1980s.
There were 31 more nests counted this year than last and 21 more than in 2011, according to figures of that department, which notes the importance of citizen participation in achieving the goal of saving the species.
“This season’s success is largely due to citizen participation,” the secretary of natural and environmental resources, Carmen Guerrero Perez, said in a communique, adding that local inhabitants participated fully in protecting the nests.
The official said that this year volunteers did the work of counting nests and successful hatches on the beaches that previously were not documented with such care, and recalled that Puerto Rico is the territory with the most leatherbacks in the United States and the second in the Caribbean after Trinidad and Tobago.
The leatherback’s season for laying eggs on the coasts of Puerto Rico lasts from March to July, followed by the hatching of the egg clutches that goes on until August and September.
The biggest sea turtle on the planet chooses beaches in warm seas to lay its eggs, and Puerto Rico has some of the beaches preferred by the species in the Caribbean.
The leatherback is the largest of all sea turtles, reaching a length of 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) and a weight of some 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds). The species nests every two years and migrates from such faraway places as Canada and northern Europe, crossing the Atlantic to lay its eggs on the coasts of Caribbean islands.