Coastal hiking can help cold stunned sea turtles

Hiking and the environment – helping endangered species by hiking

Endangered sea-turtles can be helped by coastal hiking

Text and illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt,

Cold stunned Sea turtles needs help to survive and hikers can make a difference walking along the beaches and coastal trails when the turtles are at risk of being victims of fast changing weather patterns here are three ways hiking can make a positive difference for cold stunned sea turtles 

In the last few years a huge amount of cold stunned sea turtles have washed ashore in places like Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA ( Source Massaudubon ) Among the turtles are species like the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle . A species that needs all the help it can get to avoid extinction.  In 2018, there is an ongoing situation along the shores of Cape Cod experts and volunteers collect the cold stunned sea turtles when they are found along the beaches, and help them recover before releasing them back into the ocean

In resent years the amount of stranded cold stunned sea turtles has exploded from a few every year to – just at Cape Cod, more than 1200 found in 2014

Cold stunned sea turtles and climate change

Turtles are amazing and resilient animals, they have lived on this planet for 150 million years and it is more than 100 million years ago that sea turtles separated out in different species. But today several of the last seven existing species of sea turtles are close to extinction. ( the last still living seven species of sea turtles are: greenloggerheadKemp’s ridleyolive ridley, hawksbillflatback, and leatherback  )

Sea turtles are not able to keep themselves warm but needs to be in warm waters, and when the water temperature falls below 10 C. degrees ( 50 F. ) the sea turtles lose the ability to swim and start floating with the currents and waves. Some sea turtles gets hit by ships, others drown or are washed ashore where they die from cold or are found by predators.

Climate change sparks extreme weather patterns

Extreme weather, with dramatically fluctuating temperatures, strong currents, storms and burst of freezing ocean temperatures, makes it much harder for the slow swimming sea turtles to escape by swimming towards warmer waters. Instead the sea turtles become cold stunned and unable to swim.

To help these sea turtles volunteers, organisations and national environment departments puts up rescue programs and work to monitor, predict and build facilities  so they are ready to help at times when hundreds of cold stunned sea turtles, in all sizes up to the size of car-tires, are suddenly washed up on the beaches

And when this happens the critical thing is to find the cold stunned sea turtles fast, within hours, and help get them into the hands of the trained experts and the waiting facilities, that can secure their recovery, before the sea turtles are re-released into the sea  again to help the survival of their endangered species.

Hiker girl with red backpack helping stranded sea turtle. Drawing by Frits ahlefeldt
Hikers can help find and rescue cold stunned sea turtles

Trails and hikers can make a difference to the survival of cold stunned sea turtles

I believe hiking can make a huge difference, and hikers can help save these endangered sea turtles in at least three ways:

Coastal trails makes it easier to find and rescue cold stunned turtles

If beaches are private or without access it is very hard for volunteers and hikers to find and help cold stunned sea turtles – so this yet another good reason to create public coast trail along the sea

Drawing of a private sign by a beach, and the alternative a public foot path, that will make it easier to help stranded sea turtles, among many other good things
Public Coastal trails can make a huge difference in the chances of helping cold stunned sea turtles

Coastal trails running close to the beach can make it much easier to get access to the beaches, and to find the cold stunned sea turtles and monitor the coastline and take action.  The coastal trails can even be designed to make this easier by making elevated points along the shore, where it is possible to watch the coastline. Also networks of locals and volunteers can coordinate the work to save cold stunned sea turtles, coordinating their work along and from the coast trail.

Hikers can join in to walk the coast trails at times of stranded turtles

Hikers will also use the coast trails and the hikers can make a huge difference, if they are briefed about the situation of cold stunned sea turtles. The information can be shared in newspapers, on social media, on local hiking sites, posters or on the digital trail guides.

A simple phone based GPS supported, reporting system can fast connect the finders to local rescue centers – And speed is important as more than 50 % of the cold stunned sea turtles are dead, or recovery is too late for them when they are found.

Some hikers are likely to head out to the trails in these times, just to help locate and save the cold stunned sea turtles

Hiking to face climate change

Hiking, in my view, is one of the best way we can learn how to face climate change and diminish our environmental impact on the planet.

When we get into the habit of walking and being in nature we also learn to appreciate the environment and to live more – with less ( it comes pretty easy when you have to carry all your stuff on your shoulders )

Hiking helps us build both better relationships, better health and to use less resources – There is nothing like a long walk – day, weeks or month to remind us what is important in life

Hiking along coastal trails, looking for and help save cold stunned sea turtles can actually helps us realize how little of material stuff we really need, and how much we are connected to the rest of this planet, for the benefit of both us and the rest of creation – Cold stunned Sea Turtles Research links: 

USA National Park Service – Cold Stunned Sea Turtles

MassAudubon – Sea Turtles Cold Stunned – Cape Cod statistics and 2018 situation

World Wildlife Foundation Sea Turtles

Wikipedia – Sea Turtles 

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