Hawksbill sea turtles, an endangered species, are making a comeback in Nicaragua thanks to efforts by conservationists in the area, a new study says.
The total nest count for hawksbill turtles in Nicaragua's Pearl Cays region has increased a whopping 200 percent, from 154 in 2000 to 468 in 2014.
"These recent nest counts show that by working with local communities, we can save sea turtles from extinction," Caleb McClennen, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Director of Marine Conservation, said in a news release.
Like many sea turtles, hawksbills (Eritmochelys imbricata) are a critically endangered species due mostly to human impact. Despite their protected status, hawksbill nests are poached and their eggs stolen for human consumption, a common delicacy still eaten around the world. Before the project in Nicaragua began, almost 100 percent of nests laid were poached and most eggs snatched.
However, 2014 saw one of the lowest rates of poaching in the project's history, at a low five percent. Not to mention that in the studied areas poaching rates decreased by more than 80 percent.
Plus, nest success has averaged approximately 75 percent this season, with over 35,000 hatchlings going to sea as of the end of November.
"Communities partnering with WCS are directly involved with safeguarding their own natural resources. Without their help and commitment, this project would fail, and Nicaragua's hawksbill turtles would be doomed," McClennen added.
WCS established the Hawksbill Conservation Project in 2000 to reduce poaching and create awareness. The Pearl Cays Wildlife Refuge helps safeguard nesting, foraging, breeding and migratory areas for sea turtles, and is responsible for the recent comeback of the endangered hawksbills.
According to National Geographic, hawksbill turtles are found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Compared to other sea turtles, they run on the smaller side, measuring only 45 inches long and weighing 150 pounds. They are normally found near reefs rich in the sponges they like to feed on. Though hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish and jellyfish.
It should be noted that their tasty eggs aren't the only reason for their endangered status. Hawksbills are often killed for their flesh and stunning shells, as well as threatened by accidental capture in fishing nets.
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