Community Project Rescues Threatened Turtles - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/03/05

Community Project Rescues Threatened Turtles

Ever drive down the road and see something squished in a shell? There's a pretty good chance it was a diamondback terrapin. Drivers and fishermen are their worst enemies. Vehicles have run over many of the turtles, and others have drowned in traps and nets.

But an effort is underway to save this unique species. We found one group which has spent the past year giving these turtles a better chance at surviving.

One group of little turtles have come to a stage in their lives they might not have reached if it wasn't for the loving hands that took them in. "They all hatched out at Armstrong and they've been living there for the past year," said the university's Dr. Karthryn Craven.

All of them were collected off the side of the road while they were still eggs. Diamondback terrapins are a common casualties of motorists and fishermen, so much so, that now they've been labeled as a species of concern by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

"We know that those kinds of threats do traditionally lead to them becoming threatened and endangered, so as part of a community interest project, we wanted to do what we could to replace the animals that were being killed on the road," said Dr. Craven.

Out of hundreds that are hatched out in the wild, very few survive. Now that these turtles have been allowed to grow up a little bit, their chances of surviving in the wild have increased to 50 percent.

Now they're old enough to be released back into their natural habitat, and this is likely the last time these turtles will ever touch human hands.

"When we started releasing the first ones, I think I had a little bit of a lump in my throat, because those have been our babies we've been taking care of," said biology student Jordan Gray.

Some of the turtles also had a tough time saying goodbye, but eventually mounted enough courage to swim off.

"You wish them the best of luck and hope that they survive," said Gray.

Diamondback terrapins are the only turtles in North America that can live in brackish water.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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