Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Species Extinction and the STPS

There were several disheartening stories in the news yesterday regarding species extinction. According to a report issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 1 in 4 mammals faces extinction. A Los Angeles Times story noted "The proportion of marine mammals in trouble appears to be higher, with an estimated one-third under serious threat of being wiped out. Many are killed when they are struck by ships or become entangled in fishing gear and drown."

But to help balance out this bad news, along came an email from Ann Zscheile, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer extraordinaire, telling us about the Society's new Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program (STERP). Ann writes:

"As you know, STPS launched a new program this fall called the Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program. The goal of this program is to decrease loss of post-hatchling sea turtles that have washed ashore after an extreme wind or wave or other event that causes large numbers of post-hatchling sea turtles to wash onto the beach. We hope to increase the number of post-hatchling sea turtles that are rescued, rehabilitated and eventually released back into the ocean. Over 157 people were trained to search for and rescue these "washback" sea turtles in Aug. and Sept. They have received Letters of Authorization from the state of FL to rescue and transport these turtles.

On Sat. Oct. 4, the wind from the ENE picked up and caused huge mats of seaweed to wash up on the beach. The STPS office received 7 washback sea turtles. The winds, waves and seaweed increased overnight, and more turtles were found Sunday morning. Because of this, an Emergency Response event was called, and all 157 of our volunteers were contacted. If you were on the beach on Sun (10/5), you may have noticed the STERP volunteers with their yellow-lidded buckets with Keep Sea Turtles in the Dark stickers on them as they were picking through the seaweed in search of lost and trapped turtles. At the end of the day, the STPS office received 19 washback sea turtles - 17 were found by the STERP volunteers or 89% of the total. These turtles were transported that evening to the Marine Life Center in Juno Beach. On Mon. 10/6, approximately 20 turtles were rescued, 12 of which were rescued by STERP volunteers. Although the numbers were not huge, they definitely indicated to us that having our team on the beach made a big difference in the number of turtles that were rescued." (Photos courtesy of Ann Zcheile)
We can't solve all the world's problems, but these volunteers are doing their part. I'm reminded of the story of the young boy throwing a live starfish back into the ocean. A passerby noted that saving a few of them would not make much difference, to which the boy replied, "No, but it makes a big difference to this one."
Our thanks to the new STERP volunteers (like the Griffin family in the first photo) for making a difference.
Visit STERP volunteer Jay Wherley's website for more photos.

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