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Turtle Hatchlings Rescued from Hotel Beach

Nov. 6, 2006 — Ten hatchling hawksbill turtles have gone to Coral World Ocean Park temporarily after park staff rescued them from a marina and a hotel beach on St. Thomas.
"While normally it is in the best interest of the turtle to just leave it be, we appreciate the concern residents have shown when the hatchlings are clearly in a dangerous situation," said Peter Noah, vice president of operations, according to a Coral World news release. "Hatchling sea turtles are extremely vulnerable. Their shells have not yet hardened and near shore they are more susceptible to predators such as dogs, crabs and humans."
Coral World has taken the turtles to its quarantine facility, where park staff hand feed them pieces of shrimp and fish dusted with turtle vitamins.
"Once they have gained some strength, we plan to take them out to sea and set them down with a raft of Sargassum seaweed," Noah said. Young hatchlings move far offshore after hatching, drifting along with mats of Sargassum seaweed for about their first year, the news release said.
Two of the newly hatched sea turtles were found in the murky waters of an East end marina and one was missing part of a flipper, according to the release. Days later another eight hawksbill turtles hatched on a busy hotel beach. For many years, Coral World has served as a rehabilitation center for sick, injured and stranded hatchling sea turtles. Since the park's reopening in 1998, the news release said, Coral World has aided and released hundreds of turtles in need.
"Despite limited resources and staff, we are doing all that we can to ensure that these animals get the help they need," Noah said.
Hawksbill sea turtles nest in the U.S. Virgin Islands between the months of June and December, with most nests being laid in August and September, according to Noah. Each nest may contain 50 to 200 eggs. The nests hatch in roughly two months, so people on St. Thomas may see more stranded hatchlings in the months to come.
According to Noah, turtle populations have steadily declined due to degradation of nesting habitats, poaching and boat collisions. Hawksbill sea turtles, as with all sea turtles in the world, are on the Endangered Species list, according to the news release.
"As the only approved sea-turtle rehabilitation facility in the Virgin Islands, Coral World is happy to help give these turtles a second chance, and possibly boost local turtle populations," Noah said.
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