SEA TURTLE

A sea turtle's life starts on the beach

Early morning on Sekania, the exclusive sea turtle nesting beach, which is absolutely protected by Greek law and WWF. After incubating for about two months in their eggs under the hot sand, hatchlings emerge to the surface of the beach and head to the sea. They usually come out at night or dawn, to avoid the scorching sun and deadly enemies, such as gulls. Their first journey is the most important of their lives, as they rely on their very first memories in order to find their way back.

Only one out of a thousand baby turtles will make it to adulthood. Years later, female sea turtles will return to the exact same beach where they were born. If their nesting beach remains in good condition, they will give birth to their own eggs there. 

Meet the sea turtle

Common name: Loggerhead sea turtle
Scientific name: Caretta caretta
Nesting in the Mediterranean: Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Libya, Israel

 

Sea turtles are the living relatives of a group of reptiles that has lived on Earth and travels our seas for the last 100 million years. Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are named for their large heads that support powerful jaw muscles, allowing them to crush hard-shelled prey like clams and sea urchins. 

An emblematic species of the Greek seas, the Loggerhead is the most common sea turtle species in the Mediterranean, nesting on sandy beaches from Greece and Turkey to Israel and Libya. Many of their nesting beaches are under threat from tourism development.

If they manage to escape their natural enemies as well as human-generated threats and influences, loggerhead sea turtles live for up to 100 years. 

During each egg-laying season, turtles lay two to three times. Using their rear flippers, they make their nests about 60 centimeters deep in sandy beaches. Every nest hosts up to 120 eggs and incubation lasts 55 days. The sex of the hatchlings is determined by nest temperature: hot temperatures result in more females, cool temperatures result in more males.

Climate change and loss of nesting beaches are among the top threats to the future of these magnificent ancient mariners in Earth. 

 

WWF protects the most important nesting beach

The importance of Sekania, on the island of Zakynthos, lies in its numbers: with 500–1000 nests a year, in a stretch of little more than 500m, this beach is by far the most important loggerhead turtle nesting habitat in the Mediterranean! It also records one of the highest nesting densities for the species on Earth.

Protecting the loggerhead turtle has become a personal challenge to all of us at WWF Greece. Since 1994, WWF Greece is the owner of the land surrounding Sekania beach, on the island of Zakynthos. In a period of uncertainty for the survival of sea turtles on Zakynthos, WWF bought this significant the area and has secured its absolute protection since then. 

Sekania is the most important nesting beach of the loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean.

© V. Paravas / Mom

Since 1999, when the National Marine Park of Zakynthos was established, Sekania is legally designated an area of absolute protection (Presidential Decree 966/1999). Only scientific research is allowed on Sekania. However, important threats persist.

Wildfires threaten sea turtle nesting

In October 2001, a huge wildfire destroyed the vegetation cover of Sekania. The threat of erosion and destruction of the nesting beach required urgent action. 

WWF Greece quickly mobilized supporters and volunteers and managed to rapidly complete small but effective slope erosion control works before the winter rains. In addition, large water tanks were installed to allow firefighting vehicles to refill on-the-spot, in case of a new wildfire. Since then, always with the valuable help of volunteers, WWF Greece remains of red-alert every summer, in order to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

Our volunteers at the water tank protecting Sekania from wildfires.

© A. Bonetti / WWF Greece

Together, we protect the sea turtles

WWF Greece secures the future of sea turtles, by protecting their most important nesting beach in Greece. We are not alone in this effort. In our fieldwork and scientific research, we work together with the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. We also collaborate closely with environmental organizations Archelon, Medasset and MOm.

Every year, WWF Greece carries out cleaning activities in the beaches, monitors the area and takes action to stop illegal and destructive activities, such as the waste landfill operating in the national park.

Read more 

 

Contact information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Zakynthos project leader, 0030 210 33 14 893


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