Scientists and locals are both thrilled to see a wave of tiny Loggerhead and Green turtles on the shores of Cyprus. This location in the Mediterranean has been home to the turtles for centuries, but for a while there, the future of the Loggerhead and Green turtles looked bleak.
Until the 1970s, the turtles were hunted until they were nearly extinct. In 1978, there were barely 300 turtle nests around the island of Cyprus. Thankfully, conservationists stepped in and started programs to help save the Loggerhead and Green turtles.
Those efforts are paying off.
Last year, representatives from the Fisheries and Marine Research Department said the turtle conservation program had helped the number of nests on the island grow to more than 1,100. That’s pretty remarkable, given that the reproductive cycle for the turtles can last as much as three decades (the babies that hatched this year won’t be back for 20-30 years when they’ll lay eggs of their own).
There are about 6,000 female Loggerhead turtles that lay their eggs in various locations throughout the Mediterranean. The Green turtles, however, are benefiting far more from the conservation efforts. There are only 1,500 female Green turtles that lay eggs, and they only lay those eggs in two places—Turkey and the island of Cyprus. Research shows that Cyprus sees as many as 300 Green turtles that lay eggs on the island now, whole Loggerheads number closer to 600.
Cyprus led the way among European Union countries and marine conservation efforts. The island was the first to put protections in place for both marine and land animals. Prior to the protection measures, locals and tourists would hit the beaches with little thought of damaging the fragile turtle nests. Now, adults and children alike know to look for the nests, and they’re quick to notify officials if they come across an injured turtle.
The fact that the turtles return to lay their eggs at the exact same beach where they were born 20-30 years earlier is a remarkable biological trait, and it’s important to protect their nesting areas for generations to come.