Sea turtles find peace among beaches amid coronavirus concerns


Steven Gerner, Flickr

Black sea turtle begins nesting along the shores of Costa Rica.

Jordan Johnson, Reporter

Over the past decade sea turtles have become a rare sight for many people. Their shells are an entity that many wish to collect and hang on their wall as a trophy. While they may be pretty to hang on a wall they should be kept in the water, alive, and admired from a far. Sea turtles only lay eggs in certain conditions and at certain times throughout the year. When those conditions are disrupted or the beaches, they lay the eggs, but if disturbed the turtles cease to lay eggs or even come back to the beach at all in the time of mating season.

All but one species of sea turtle, the Leatherback, lay their eggs in warm conditions such as late spring and throughout summer. While many think it only takes a few years for hatchlings to be able to reproduce, it takes almost two decades for all species of sea turtles to be able to provide offspring. The sea turtles such as the Hawksbill take up to 20 years to be able to reproduce. In that 20 years the species rely on the older generations to keep the others alive. However, when they are hunted down or disturbed many of the turtles die.

Covid-19 has had many downfalls, but to the turtles it is their saving grace. With beaches quieter and less businesses open on the coast, sea turtles now feel more than safe enough to make their journey onto land to lay eggs. With less light on the coast of many of these beaches it will be safer for the hatchlings when it comes time for them to go into the ocean to start their lives. Over the past month, more than 60 million sea turtles have come up onto abandoned beaches and laid thousands of nests.

Costa Rica is one of the many places that have placed restrictions on beaches in which the turtles lay their eggs. And on Tuesday, April 7, Costa Rica’s Environment Ministry Workers Union shut down over six entries to their beaches and have added law enforcement patrolling the roads that lead to them. The only people allowed on to the beaches are tour guides who are allowed to show no more than ten people the arribada, or mass nesting, and are only limited to half an hour at a time, for up to 30 hours a week. This past year, hundreds of people went on to the beaches to admire the turtles, only later disturbing the nests. This year the country is making sure that the turtles are able to lay their eggs in a way that is beneficial for the turtles not to be disturbed, but also for the people interested in learning about the nests and types of turtles that have been laid. Similarly, many other countries such as Brazil are also blocking off their beaches from the public.

Zoos have been experiencing the same as beaches worldwide. One in particular has a sea turtle that hasn’t laid eggs in years due to the surrounding quietness. Many zoos, due to Covid-19 have shut down to encourage social distancing. Many of the zoos that hold sea turtles in order to keep them from extinction have experienced that it is difficult for their turtles to lay eggs, most of them having not laid a single egg in years. The turtles cannot lay their eggs unless the environment in which they reside in, is quiet and undisturbed. They have to feel safe; when they feel safe they are able to lay their eggs with ease.

Although Covid-19 has been rough for people globally, many environmental changes are happening. Many animals are returning to where they once resided and many are feeling safe enough to reproduce again. Endangered animals are more likely to be saved during this period. Nevertheless it is still worrisome for many environmentalists that after quarantine is over things will return “back to normal” and sea turtles may begin to have more issues. However, the big question is whether or not the government will continue to limit the amount of people on beaches during egg laying season as such in this time of social distancing.