The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been home to green and loggerhead sea turtles for thousands of years.
On a late afternoon in August, a group of baby turtles hatched on the island’s Lara Beach. They could be seen struggling toward the ocean, ready to begin their new lives.
Twenty to 30 years from now, many of them will be back at Lara Beach to lay their own eggs. Scientists say the turtles’ biological tracking system brings them back to lay eggs on the same beaches their ancestors chose thousands of years ago.
In the early 1900s, green and loggerhead turtles were hunted until few remained. But now, their populations are increasing in the Mediterranean Sea because of conservation efforts, marine biologists say.
Andreas Demetropoulos is the founder of a turtle conservation program under the island’s Fisheries and Marine Research Department.
He said there were just 300 turtle nests on the beaches of Cyprus when these efforts began in 1978. But the numbers grew to about 1,100 nests last year.
That number may not sound like a lot, but loggerhead and green turtles may remain fertile for 30 years. So, Demetropoulos thinks the results are wonderful.
The increase is especially good news for the green turtle, which lays its eggs in only two countries: Turkey and Cyprus. There are only about 1,500 female green turtles that lay eggs in those two countries. About 6,000 loggerhead females lay eggs in places across the Mediterranean Sea.
Myroula Hadjichristophorou is a marine biologist. Along with Demetropoulos, she leads the island’s turtle conservation program. She said Cyprus has 200 to 300 green turtles who lay eggs while the number for loggerheads is more than double that.
Cyprus began its conservation program long before any country in the European Union. And that has made a huge difference, she said.
One conservation effort has been guarding the turtles against their main killer: foxes. Another was passing laws in 1989 that permitted conservationists to protect two important beaches in the island’s west and northwest.
Before the laws, local people would camp on the beach and have barbecues with little concern for the turtles. But over time, Hadjichristophorou said, the area built up a conservationist culture — from school children to adults. Now, people who find something like an injured turtle tell officials immediately.
“When people come here with their families, their children, they see the babies coming out of their nests, this is something that they will never forget,” said Hadjichristophorou.
I’m Alice Bryant.
The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
hatched –adj. to have come out of an egg
tracking –adj. related to following or watching the path of something
conservation –n. the protection of animals, plants and natural resources
marine –adj. of or related to the sea or the plants and animals that live in it
nests –n. a place where animals such as birds or reptiles lay there eggs
barbecue –n. an outdoor meal or party at which food is cooked on a barbecue