Local News

Apr 29, 2014 1:47 PM by Rachel Cole - rcole@kristv.com

Sea Turtle Nests Spotted as Program Funds Grow Scarce

CORPUS CHRISTI - Recently, two Kemp's Ridley Turtle nests were found out on the Padre Island National Seashore. Conservationists say this discovery is great news especially because that species is on the brink of extinction. Plus, all types of sea turtles are now facing their biggest threat yet, a cut in funding for rescue programs across the state

Sea turtles of all shapes and sizes are a staple in South Texas. They live in the gulf waters and are a sight to see, during the Kemp's Ridley nesting season.

"We have 6 different nesting patrol programs in Texas that are going out everyday and searching for the nesting turtles," Doctor Donna Shaver said.

Shaver is the Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at the Padre Island National Seashore. Shaver says, patrol crews look for sand tracks, in hopes of finding eggs laid by the mother turtles.

"When the eggs are found they're retrieved for protected incubation," she said.

However, protection efforts like that, now hang in the balance. In December of 2013, funding for sea turtle programs was cut by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Some say it's because it's simply not a priority.

"We're on the edge of frankly bringing at least one species, the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle off the endangered species list, just as the federal government is pulling back from funding," Doctor Larry McKinney with A & M Corpus Christi said.

Officials with the Harte Research Institute at the Island University are among many sea turtle conservation groups across Texas. Tuesday, they met to figure out how to get funds to keep rescue efforts going in the coastal bend. McKinney says private funding could be the most promising source.

Despite the change in funding, in about 45 days, a public but protected release will be held for the eggs found.

"The goal of the recovery program is to get these animals de-listed off the threatened, endangered species list," Shaver said.

That protection is from predators, one of many threats to sea turtles, along with a lack of federal funding.

Plus, patrol crews hope to find additional nests through August, the last month of the nesting season. Meanwhile the next hatchling release will be held in mid-June and is open to the public.

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