A Caretta – Caretta sea turtle was saved a few days ago by a fisherman from Chania, who was sailing on his boat with his son at Kato Daratso. The incident was recorded and photographed by a local, Andreas Pontikakis, who mentioned:
“Giorgos Mihelakis, an amateur fisherman was coming towards the Kato Daratso Bay with his boat hauling a living turtle that they found wounded or sick floating in the waters. With caution and the experience as a sailor he took the animal out to the shore and called the Sea Turtle Protection Center of Crete to take care of the Sea Turtle.
The Caretta- Caretta Turtle (Loggerhead Sea Turtle)
Caretta – Caretta is one of the nine existing species of sea turtles in the world. It comes to Greece to give birth, mostly in Zakynthos, the South Peloponnese and Crete.
The turtle shell size can reach 120cm of length and its weight can be up to 300kilos. Its mouth looks like a parrot’s beak and it’s constructed this way in order to allow the turtle to break the shells of sea animals. If a loggerhead manages to survive all the threats, it can live almost up to 200 years.
Caretta – Caretta mates from March to June and nests in June and July. Each clutch can give 60 to 150 eggs, which are small, almost the size of a ping pong ball. Once the little turtles are born, they need to find the way to the sea on their own, and it’s very typical to see little marks on the sand in Zakynthos and Cretan beaches from the baby turtles that crawl to the water.
Caretta – Caretta is an endangered species; the main threat to loggerheads lies in fishing nets and trawls, although most of them are actually injured by propellers and motor boats. There are numerous protection institutes and organizations that monitor its nesting grounds in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Costa Rica.
The Turtle Protection Society in Greece
Archelon, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, was founded in 1983 and aims at the protection of sea turtles and their natural habitat in Greece. It has a well appointed rescue centre, established in 1994, and has been launching several campaigns to raise public awareness and restore the habitat of the turtles.
Archelon is partner to the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan, but relies mostly on volunteering work. There are approximately 400-500 volunteers every year working in beaches or the rescue centre in Athens.
Due to the Archelon campaigns and tasks more than 2,500 nests are protected against every known threat, including predation and sea inundation. Archelon has marked more than 3,500 turtles in order to monitor their health and life, using satellite transmitters.
The rescue center of Glyfada in Athens treats approximately 50-60 injured or sick turtles every year, while Archelon operates open and seasonal stations in Zakynthos, Crete and the Peloponnese Peninsula at the main nesting areas of the turtles, allowing volunteers and students to participate in the tasks and programs.
It is estimated that more than 15,000 students participate in several educational programs launched and managed by Archelon.
Tips for the protection of Caretta – Caretta
Although tourists are informed on the existence and nesting periods of turtles in Greece, unfortunately tourism is one of the biggest threats of the sea turtles today.
Tourists are usually indifferent, destroying the nests of the turtles, or they are too eager to help small turtles to find their way to the sea, causing unnecessary problems. There are a few effective and efficient ways to protect turtles as a tourist though.
A small Decalogue for tourists in areas where turtles nest and give birth could include the following suggestions:
- Do not leave garbage and dangerous objects at the beach
- If you and your kids create sandcastles on the beach, knock them down before you leave.
- Do not place the sea umbrellas deep into the beach, but prefer the high tide line.
- Do not carry the new born turtles to the water; let them find their own way to the water, otherwise they become disoriented and can be drown.
- Do not light fires on the beach at night
- Do not camp on the beaches where turtles nest
- Do not drive your vehicle on the beach
- Ask professionals and volunteers what to do and what to avoid and notice the marked turtle nesting areas.