At the September meeting the guest speaker was Margaret Blanchard who spoke passionately about her quest to raise awareness of the plight of one of the last survivors of the Jurassic age, the Giant Leatherback Turtle.
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These huge solitary sea creatures weighing in excess of one ton and despite laying hundreds of eggs every year are the fifth most endangered species in the world. The Giant Leatherbacks inhabit the waters around the Caribbean, Florida and Australia and during the breeding season haul their way on to the beaches to lay their eggs in the sand, scraping out a nesting site with their huge flippers. For creatures so adept at living in the water their journey on land to and from the beach is an ungainly and exhausting process. When the baby turtles hatch some two months later they are forced to make a life or death dash back to the sea a journey that very few survive, falling prey to many of the natural predators that await them both in and out of the water. Unfortunately even upon reaching the sea 21st century life is also a major cause of their diminishing numbers. Chemical pollution and rubbish dumped in the sea kills large numbers of Leatherbacks every year with plastic bags being the main culprit. Mistaken for jellyfish, the Leatherback’s only food source, the bags once swallowed, cannot be expelled thereby causing the turtles to suffocate. Other marine dangers also exist including long line fishing nets and speedboat propellers that can slice off a flipper in an instant. Part of Margaret’s campaign involves regular visits to breeding sights around the world highlighting these dangers and encouraging the local population to become turtle custodians, moving the newly laid eggs to safer nesting areas and protecting them from poachers. Margaret has also written a book entitled “Ripples In The Sand” and although a fantasy appealing to all ages it does contain a serious message that mankind needs to improve and protect the environment for these amazing creatures before they disappear from the sea forever.