Mediterranean tourism threatens sea turtles

Boy especially at night on the beach endangered

Turtle cub © WWF
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Many turtle nests on the beaches of the Mediterranean are threatened by uncontrolled tourism, warns the WWF at the start of the holiday season. Protected areas, which are supposed to be reserved for sea turtles, are disregarded or poorly guarded.

Tourists should follow a few rules during their beach vacation, so as not to unnecessarily endanger the nesting and offspring of turtles. For example, according to the WWF, the Greek authorities on the popular holiday island of Zakynthos are implementing inadequate legislation to protect turtles. There are nowhere else so many nests of the critically endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) found anywhere else in the Mediterranean as on Zakynthos.

Every year, between the end of May and the end of July, females lay around 800 to 1, 100 eggs on the beaches of Zakynthos. To do this, they dig sand pits into which they let in each case about 100 eggs. After about two months, the turtle babies hatch and set off under the cover of the night on the dangerous path into the sea. They are guided by the bright shimmer of the sea surface. If they succeed in escaping the cats, dogs and birds of prey that are lurking on the beach, the turtles can live to 100 years. But until then it's a long way: It is estimated that only every thousandth turtle reaches adulthood. This occurs only relatively late. The loggerhead turtle is only mature at the age of about thirty.

"The breeding season of the turtles and the tourist season in Greece coincide exactly. The tourists have to consider and should share the coveted sandy beaches with the turtles. This includes that the nesting beaches remain undisturbed, especially at night, "says Birgit Felgentreu from WWF Germany. The biologist works as a WWF species conservationist and has been involved in a turtle project on Zakynthos during her studies.

Tourism is only one of many factors that threatens the turtles in Zakynthos: some residents of the island boycott the protection of the reptiles, as they fear financial disadvantages. display

(WWF, 01.07.2004 - NPO)