Sea turtles are among the world’s oldest creatures. The seven species that can be found today have been on the earth for about 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. These ancient reptiles have long fascinated people around the world and are some of our islands’ most treasured natural resources.
Sea turtle monitoring on Sanibel originally began in the late 1950’s with Charles Lebuff and Caretta Research, Inc., making it one of the longest running monitoring programs in the country. The program was transferred to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation in 1992 when Caretta Research, Inc. disbanded.
Every year in late spring, loggerhead sea turtles arrive on Sanibel and Captiva for the nesting season. The SCCF Sea Turtle Program surveys 18 miles of beach, from the Sanibel lighthouse to Blind Pass, every morning from April – October. Over 100 volunteers help with the daily search for tracks that the sea turtle left behind when she emerged from the sea the night before. Sometimes sea turtles go back to the water without laying eggs, which is known as a non-nesting emergence. If we determine that the turtle successfully laid eggs, the nest is watched over until the eggs hatch and there are signs of the hatchlings crawling to the Gulf. Storms, humans and predators may disturb or destroy the nests, reducing their survival. After the nests hatch they are evaluated to determine the number of hatchlings that successfully emerged.
In addition to nest protection activities, program staff also educate the public about the threats that sea turtles face, respond to live and dead sea turtles that wash up on the beach, participate in collaborative research projects, and help monitor beach construction projects. The Sea Turtle Program operates under a permit granted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).