An effort to scoop thousands of turtle eggs from their nests to save them from death in the oily Gulf of Mexico will begin in the coming weeks in a desperate attempt to keep an entire generation of threatened species from vanishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will coordinate the plan, which calls for collecting about 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried in the sand across Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.
“This is an extraordinary effort under extraordinary conditions, but if we can save some of the hatchlings, it will be worth it as opposed to losing all of them,” said Chuck Underwood of the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service. “We have a much higher degree of certainty that if we do nothing and we allow these turtles to emerge and go into the Gulf and into the oil … that we could in fact lose most of them, if not all of them,” he added.
Dozens of workers are fanned out across the coast marking turtle nests, most of them threatened loggerheads, which nest largely along Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches. The eggs will be carefully placed in specially designed Styrofoam containers, like coolers, along with sand and moisture to mimic the natural nest. The containers will then be trucked about 500 miles east to a temperature-controlled warehouse at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. There, the eggs will remain until hatchlings emerge, and they will be placed one-by-one on Florida’s east coast, where the turtles can swim oil-free into the Atlantic Ocean.