This baby green turtle was rescued from the very first green nest to be laid on Bonita Beach. / Andrea Stetson/Special to news-press.com
(News-Press.com) - The first documented green turtle nest hatched Sunday on Bonita Beach.
"We broke the record from zero to one," said Eve Haverfield, president and founder of Turtle Time. "We love all our nests, but this one was just a little more special."
Green turtles are breaking records all over the state. On Sanibel and Captiva islands, the previous record of eight green turtles was smashed this year when 22 nests were laid.
"We have more greens than we have ever recorded," said Amanda Bryant who monitors turtles for the Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation. "It's more by a lot."
Records were also smashed along the east coast of Florida.
"The number of Florida green turtle nests has exceeded that of loggerhead nests in the Brevard County portion of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida," wrote Dean Bagley of the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research Program. "When Llew Ehrhart began working here in 1982, there were fewer than 50 green turtle nests in each of the first three years. We believe that this is one of the greatest conservation stories in the history of North American wildlife."
Turtle Time has been monitoring turtles on Bonita Beach since 1990 and has never had a green nest before. This year there were 96 loggerhead nests and one green nest on the beach.
Haverfield said all turtle species are important because each one plays a role in the environment. Green turtles are an indicator species that reflect the health of the oceans and ocean grasses. Loggerheads are the farmers or bulldozers that loosen sediment. Leatherbacks control the jellyfish population, while hawksbills eat sponges and keep coral healthy.
"Having lots of greens this year is an indicator of the future," Haverfield said.
Haverfield was excited to have proof that the nest on Bonita was really from a green turtle.
"I was 99.9 percent sure it was a green nest, but I wanted to be 100 percent sure before I declared anything," she said.
Haverfield suspected a green nest when it was laid 62 days ago due to the huge size, but it wasn't until she rescued a hatchling that she was positive.
Gina Fishtorn, a Turtle Time volunteer, was looking for turtle tracks Sunday morning when she noticed the green nest had hatched. Then she saw something little and black waving at her. It was the flipper of a green hatchling that had not made it out of the nest.
"It doesn't look like a loggerhead, and I've seen lots of loggerheads," Fishtorn said
The green's flippers are longer, its head is not as bulky and it has four scutes instead of five on its shell. Greens also have a lighter underside and a cone-shaped beak.
The hatchling was rescued and released after dark when fewer predators were around.
"This is an indicator of all the conservation efforts," Haverfield said. "I'm just feeling so happy."