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Buccaneer Resort Recognized for Turtle Conservation Efforts

Buccaneer owner Elizabeth Armstrong (left) receives a plaque from the National Park Service's Zandy Hillis-Starr.The National Park Service’s Buck Island Reef Sea Turtle Research Program appears to be working, thanks in large part to a well-planned partnership with the Buccaneer Resort.
In a brief ceremony Tuesday at the Buccaneer’s Terrace Restaurant, St. Croix National Park Superintendent Joel Tutein and Resource Management Chief Zandy Hillis-Starr acknowledged the contributions of longtime Buccaneer owners, the Armstrong family.
For nearly two decades, the Armstrongs have provided lodging and meals for interns who spend their nights wide awake at Buck Island recording every move, size, shape, and the genetics of sea turtles as they come ashore to nest.
Folks at the Buccaneer offer them air conditioning, hot showers, cozy beds, nice views, pretty beaches and two meals a day. The interns are from the Student Conservation Association out to gain experience in fieldwork and whole wildlife biology.
On Tuesday Hillis-Starr and Tutein presented owner Elizabeth Armstrong with a glass sea turtle plaque designed by local glass artist Jan Mitchell.
Armstrong said that growing up as a swimmer here she has seen the rising scarcity of sea life and damage done by runoff and wants to make a difference.
“I just wish we could do more,” Armstrong said, adding that the Buccaneer’s staff is always on the lookout for injured turtles.
On Tuesday Tutein spoke about the longtime accomplishments of the program, which is geared toward the conservation of hawksbill turtles by protecting nests to ensure hatching success.
Tutein said back in 1987 they counted 12 to 15 hawksbill females coming ashore on Buck Island. This year’s data shows 60, down a bit from the normal highs of up to 80. Ian Lundgren, NPS biologist and program manager, said they had 90 actual incubated nests.
According to Lundgren, there were also 34 green turtles that came ashore and they dug 107 nests. They counted a couple loggerheads nesting, too, but no leatherbacks.
Lundgren said they won’t know what the affects of Hurricanes Earl and Igor will have had on the nests until the eggs start to hatch in November.
Hillis-Starr said there has been a slow steady increase in education through management working in programs and partnerships. They are funded with a Youth Intern Program Grant for $25,000. She added the recovery plan for hawksbill turtles was actually written on St. Croix, and they are one of eight long-term recovery programs globally.
For the last two months, four interns from the States and two NPS workers from Lake Mead, Nev., walked the shores of Buck Island from 6 p.m to 7 a.m.
“It was easy to stay awake because it was so exciting seeing the turtles,” said Virginia’s Kelly Bowman.

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