18/11/2016

Caretta caretta nests in Attica!

When you hear the phrase ‘Caretta caretta nesting beaches’, most people think of Zakynthos, the Peloponnese or Crete. While these are the main nesting areas for the turtles in Greece, they do nest in other places throughout the country as well. People may not even realize that there is a nest on a beach, unless they see it being made or see the hatchlings coming out. Recently the Rescue Centre has been getting reports of nests found in various parts of Greece, such as Naxos, other islands, and surprisingly, Attica.

In July 2016, a local resident reported a sea turtle nest on a beach in Nea Makri, Attica. In August, ARCHELON Rescue Network Coordinator Pavlo Tsaros and a group of RC volunteers went to the beach to excavate the hatched nest to determine the number of eggs, etc.

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At that time, Pavlo spotted a second, newer nest on the same beach. This second nest was located at the back of the beach and, due to beach erosion, quite an uphill climb from the sea. Eight weeks later, Pavlo and a group of RC volunteers returned to excavate the second nest, and to everyone’s surprise, hatchlings were coming out! Despite the wind, waves, and obstructions on the beach, the hatchlings (like little tanks) made their way up, down, in, and out of the obstacles, reached the sea and quickly disappeared. (See a video of these hatchlings at https://vimeo.com/182689701.) There were still eggs inside the nest which hadn’t hatched yet, so the nest was re-buried and will be excavated at a later time.

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Next stop was Marathon beach, where a nest had been reported about 8 weeks earlier. Unfortunately, that part of the beach is filled with restaurants and cafes. Pavlos had instructed the local residents to protect the nest with a fence, which they did; unfortunately, the protective fence was destroyed by person(s) unknown, and re-built by an ARCHELON volunteer, but it was eventually removed by someone. The locals working in the nearby restaurants told Pavlos that they had seen only a few hatchlings make it to the sea; unfortunately, several had been confused by the bright street and shop lights and had been killed on the road.

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In 2014, a nest was found at Lavrio and another in Porto Ennia. A local resident walking on the Lavrio beach one evening with her dog saw the mother turtle come out of the water and build the nest. Because of the construction of a paved road, the beach was very narrow, forcing the turtle to build the nest relatively close to the sea. The person who found the nest contacted Pavlos, who instructed her how to protect it. Residents kept Pavlo informed about the nest, and Pavlo and several ARCHELON volunteers went to check it. We were just in time to see 8 hatchlings leaving the nest and entering the sea. Some people actually spent the night watching the nest, and reported seeing other hatchlings come out the next night. Soon after, towards the end of the incubation period, the nest was flooded by waves. The nest was excavated, and the final outcome was as follows: in total, 21 hatchlings were known to have entered the sea; 11 dead hatchlings were found inside eggs; 12 unfertilized eggs, and 6 eggs with embryos at various stages were found.

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At Porto Ennia, the small beach (located close to houses and a street) was heavily developed and much used. A local resident said they had found a number of hatchlings heading towards the nearby street and house lights, but had recovered them and put them into the sea. It was impossible to find the location of the nest due to the heavy use of the beach.

In all cases, local residents were very interested to learn more about the Caretta caretta turtles, and said they would notify Pavlo of any future nests they may find.

For more information and photos about turtle biology and nesting, see the ARCHELON website (for information in Greek, http://www.archelon.gr/contents/biology.php?row=row7 + a downloadable PDF book; for information in English, http://www.archelon.gr/eng/biology.php?row=row7. Unfortunately, the book is not available in English at this time.)

So, next time you’re at your favorite sandy beach, take a closer look around – you might get lucky!

Joanne Stournara & Pavlos Tsaros,

October 2016

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