The release of a rescued loggerhead turtle. / SUR

Looking out for sea turtles

The tradition began in 2000 and is sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. Numerous sea turtles are rescued off the Costa del Sol every year

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

Sea turtles use the Andalusian coastline as areas for feeding and shelter. The most frequent species is the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) (commonly known as 'tortuga boba' or 'cabezona' in Spain), although, other species such as the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) can also be found. Both are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction according to the red list of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Additionally, green turtles (Chelonia mydas), which pass into the western Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar, have also be sighted on occasions. This species is currently also catalogued as Endangered by the IUCN. (At a national level, the 'tortuga boba' is included in the List of Wildlife Species under Special Protection Regime and is listed as Vulnerable in the Spanish Catalogue of Threatened Species.)

On sporadic occasions, sea turtles have been known to use the Andalusian coasts as nesting grounds

On sporadic occasions, sea turtles have been known to use the Andalusian coasts as nesting grounds. However, scientists stress that climate change is also changing the nesting sites of some endangered turtle species. In August 2020, eggs were found on a beach in Fuengirola. They hatched several kilometres away from where the mother actually laid her eggs as they were moved to a beach in Marbella, where the eggs would be safer. This was the westernmost loggerhead turtle nest found in the Mediterranean. In July last year a nest was found on a beach in Mojácar of Almeria province.

Finds of this kind are taken to Algeciras, where the CEGMA del Estrecho (Andalusian marine management centre of the Strait of Gibraltar) is located. The CEGMA was opened by the Ministry of the Environment of the Andalusian regional government in 2009.

The CEGMA del Estrecho boasts a large main building and other annexed facilities, including the six outdoor pools for the recovery and rehabilitation of sea turtles. In the facilities of the CEGMA del Estrecho all turtle babies grow until they weigh a kilo or so and are ready to live alone in the sea and cross oceans.

Incidentally, the loggerhead turtles tend to return to the same place where they were born to lay the eggs of thei young. This means that in a few years, and with a bit of luck, one or some of the fifty or so turtles hatched here this year will return to build their nests under the sand of the Costa del Sol.

"If you find turtle eggs on the beach, don't touch them, but just call 112"

Experts have warned people to be careful if they come across turtle eggs on the beach. "Do not touch them, but just call 112." The same advice applies if people find stranded turtles on the sand. Injuries are usually caused by fishing lines or by becoming entangled in plastic or nets. Statistically, most stranded turtles are found on the coasts of Malaga and Cadiz provinces. Most of the rescued turtles are named after the person who finds them, or in case of net finds, after the name of the boat, sources at CEGMA tols SUR in English.

Most of the rescued turtles are named after the person who finds them, or in case of net finds, after the name of the boat

World Turtle Day is celebrated around the globe in a variety of ways, from dressing up as turtles to research activities. But probably the most efficient way is to be alert and, if you come across turtle eggs or stranded turtles, call the emergency services.