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13 turtles found dead in ONE day in Alexandroupolis

It seems like everyone has heard the news. People are concerned about the fate of Caretta caretta. But two questions remain:
Why so far away from Zakynthos?
What was their cause of death?

First of all, it is important to remind everyone that the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is present in Greece because the most important nesting grounds in the Mediterranean are found on our coasts. This includes not only the island of Zakynthos, but also the shores of the Peloponnese and the island of Crete. Archelon has seven conservation projects working in these regions every summer. They have recorded nesting activity for the last 30 years without fail. Protecting these nesting beaches and informing the public has been our mission.

The said loggerhead sea turtles are found all over the country. This year alone, the Archelon Rescue Centre is hosting injured turtles originating from as far north as Alexandroupolis and as far south as Karpathos. This migratory species can cover thousands of kilometers within a single year, wandering all around the Mediterranean Sea. But they always return to their nesting beach to lay their eggs.

Scientific studies have established that the northern part of the Aegean Sea is an important feeding ground for these animals. An abundance of nutrition (sea grass and slow-moving prey) and shallow waters (warmer temperature) also make these areas suitable for wintering.

As for the 13 turtles found dead in Alexandroupolis on the 7th of May, their carapace length varies between 50cm and 78cm, which would indicate that these individuals are both sub-adults and adults. Why did these marine turtles die? One was too decomposed to draw conclusions about, but for 12 of them it was possible to understand the cause of death.

For six individuals, the absence of visible injuries and presence of numerous epibionts as well as algae and silt would indicate that they were wintering in the area. They were very likely accidental bycatch victims of trawling nets. This may be confirmed by the fact that trawlers operate in this same area until the end of May every year.

Two individuals had severe damage on the back of their carapace that could have resulted from boat collisions.

Four individuals were purposely struck on the head, causing severe wounds which lead to their death after weeks of unbearable suffering.

In addition to the 13 dead turtles, letʼs not forget the two injured turtles that were found in the last few days in Alexandroupolis with similar head traumas caused by irresponsible ʽhuman beingsʼ. Letʼs pray that the turtles can recover and eventually return to their natural environment. The sea is for all creatures to share.

As a reminder, a Native American proverb says, ʽTreat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our children.ʼ

(Pavlos Tsaros, Rescue Centre)


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