Sea Turtles: Amazing and Endangered
What do you think of when you hear the phrase "the beach?" Sand and water? Yes, but there is a whole world of plants, birds and fish who call the North Carolina coast their home.
You might be wondering how this creature that spends almost all of its life in the ocean captures hearts. Next time you visit Topsail Island, in Pender County, visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, and you will find out! The Center takes sea turtles from up and down the North Carolina coast that have been injured either by nature or by humans, and they have a long history of rehabilitating and releasing many turtles back into the Atlantic Ocean. Running solely on donations, this non-profit organization gives incredible care to these turtles. The Center is open to the public every day except Wednesday and Sunday, so you can visit the center, take a tour and hear the stories of the turtles that are currently housed there. The hospital is a small, converted garage on the waterway, but it is full of love. Once you have stepped inside, you will never think of a sea turtle in the same way again.
Another organization located on the North Carolina Coast is the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.), which is a non-profit organization located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their mission is to preserve and protect the habitats and migration routes of sea turtles, as well as other marine animals, located between Oregon Inlet, North Carolina and the Virginia border. The loggerhead, green sea turtles and leatherback sea turtles come as far north as the Outer Banks to nest, and the rare Hawksbill sea turtles and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles also occasionally call the Outer Banks home as well. For more information, visit N.E.S.T. during your next visit to the Outer Banks.
The Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project, serving Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, also offers volunteer services to ensure the safety and protection of all endangered sea turtle species. For videos showing recent hatchings in Carolina Beach, view Video #1 or Video #2.
It is very hard to estimate how many sea turtles, of any variety, there are in our oceans. There are two reasons for that. The first reason is that only the females return to the beach for nesting - males stay in the water and never come onshore. The second reason is that female turtles do not lay eggs every year. In Pender County, Topsail Island has been home to 63 nests in 2007. Compare that to 94 nests in 2006 and 72 nests in 2005. Bald Head Island reported 64 nests in 2006 and only 50 in 2007. Along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore of the Outer Banks, nest counts have ranged from 77 to 161 nests in the past 4 years.