Sea Shepherd and Antigua Sea Turtle Project (ASTP)rescued a critically endangered hawksbill turtle while conducting surveys and conservation patrols of key sea turtle nesting sites on Antigua and Barbuda.

August 2nd, 2018 Antigua and Barbuda –  On July 31st, the crew of Sea Shepherd’s The MV Brigitte Bardot, together with researchers from the Antigua Sea Turtle Project (ASTP), rescued an endangered sea turtle on the beaches of Barbuda during Operation Jairo Caribbean.

The turtle, a critically endangered hawksbill, had come ashore to nest and became trapped under a rocky ledge. Unable to free herself, she could not return to the ocean.

“She wedged herself into a position where she couldn’t back up and she couldn’t turn around.” says Dr. Kate Levasseur, a conservation researcher with ASTP who has been collecting data on the turtles of Antigua and Barbuda since 2009.

Working quickly and carefully, the conservationists managed to free the turtle, allowing her safe passage back into the ocean. Researchers believe that she had been trapped in the heat of the mid-day sun for up to six hours but upon rescue, the turtle appeared to be in good health and successfully managed to return to the ocean.

“She was slow to go back to the water, but she was ok.” says Dr. Levasseur.

The rescue of this turtle marks the end of a successful one-month campaign in which over 60 nests were documented, and 12 turtles were tagged to be continually monitored by scientists. The rescue, which happened on the last day of the campaign, came with one additional surprise:

The turtle that was saved was the same turtle first encountered by the crew when the campaign began several weeks ago. She was the very first turtle to be monitored and tagged by researchers this season.

Sea Shepherd has been in Barbuda since July 7th, patrolling and protecting the nesting beaches of endangered hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles. The campaign, Operation Jairo Caribbean, is named after Jairo Mora Sandoval, a Costa Rican conservationist murdered while protecting nesting leatherback turtles in 2013. In Barbuda, Sea Shepherd is working in collaboration with the Antigua Sea Turtle Project, an environmental awareness group working to protect Antigua and Barbuda’s endangered sea turtle populations through nesting surveys, education, and advocacy for turtle-friendly practices.

Hawksbill turtles are a critically endangered species and are at risk of extinction. They are slow to mature and their numbers have declined by over 80% within the past three generations. Loss of nesting habitat is one of the major threats to the survival of the species.

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