Loggerhead Turtles of the Mediterranean Sea: 25 Nests in Campania, A Surprising Discovery from the Nest Monitoring of this Year

Let’s talk about turtles! Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are listed as vulnerable on IUCN Red List of Threatened species. The current population of Loggerhead turtles is decreasing and there is still a significant lack of information regarding them and other marine turtles (Casale and Tucker, 2017). They are facing many threats such as coastal development, bycatch from fishing, climate change, pollution, human intrusions and disturbance, and direct utilisation of turtles or their eggs for human consumption (Wallace et al., 2011). Increased temperatures due to climate change can affect turtle populations in a way that if the temperature of the sand is higher than usual, only female turtles will be developing, which is putting the risk on the sex ratio, hence to the successful reproduction of the population. Turtle nesting is a complex process and many little details, such as modest temperature fluctuation, salinity and humidity levels, appropriate off-shore and on-shore conditions make an immense difference (Miller et al., 2003). Enhanced efforts for turtle assessment should be a priority in the future to tackle the threats they are facing. 

It is extremely important to monitor turtle nests due to increased artificial lighting, that hatchlings can mistake with the moon, which they use to find the direction to the sea. Furthermore, increased human activity on the beaches, unawareness and inattentiveness can lead to a decrease in the success of turtles laying a nest and for hatchlings getting back to the sea. Only 1 of 1000 of hatchlings will reach sexual maturity and return to their nesting grounds, which they were born at. The nesting period in the Mediterranean is from the beginning of June till the middle of August. In general, female turtles deposit on an average of 100 eggs and the incubation period lasts in the period of 50 to 60 days (Jribi et al., 2006).

Figure 1. Loggerhead turtle hatchlings (Connexionfrance, 2018).

The season of 2020 is a SPECIAL year in Campania region of Italy because it is the first one to have a big effort of monitoring activities with the help of the network, that allowed to discover 25 nests, which is much more than expected! The maximum since 2002 has been 13 nests in 2016. Below you can see the nest range map with numbers of the nests found in each location (Figure 2), as well as the graph of the number of nests per time interval and the number of nests per location (Figure 3).

Figure 2. Nest range map of June – July 2020 (Google Maps, 2020).
Figure 3. Bar Chart of the number of Loggerhead Turtle Nests June – the beginning of August, and Table showing the number of nests found per location.

Our M.A.R.E. team is able to join the Campania Network of Sea Turtles with following partners: ARDEA, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (SZAD), Punta Campanella Marine Protected Area, NATURart, Museo del Mare di Pioppi, Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (ENPA) for the nest monitoring in July, August and September 2020. Until now, for five days, starting with 20th of June, two of our volunteers and one supervisor joined turtle nest monitoring in Cilento. During our stay there, we and partners (SZAD and ENPA) discovered four new turtle nests, and professionals from SZAD translocated three of the nests because they were too close to the shore. We could see the process and it was informative and truly mesmerising! For the new nests, we made borders and put signs (see Figure 4). Whilst transferring eggs, they were carefully placed by a qualified professional into a bucket with sand, and then in the same order put into a new nest, which was carefully chosen and made with the same depth as the previous one. 

Figure 4. A border made around the turtle nest in Pisciotta and an informative.

A big THANK YOU to our partners for allowing us to take a part in turtle nest monitoring and have a hands-on experience. It is an honour for us to contribute towards such an important cause, to spread awareness and to find out more about Loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean! We appreciate your valuable work!

Our M.A.R.E. team will continue to visit Cilento in August and September, and hopefully will witness the hatchlings and ensure their safe journey to the vast sea! Stay tuned for more blog posts and updates, and don’t forget to keep an eye on our and partner social media platforms as well! If you wish to find out more about Caretta caretta or sea turtles in general, check out our reference and extra material sections! 

Always be mindful of the environment around you and the footprint you leave! 

Ci vediamo a presto,

Team M.A.R.E.