The New England Aquarium veterinarians were the bearers of sad news today as they discovered that sea turtles fall prey to human hazards once again. The aquarium from Cape Cod found the corpse of and endangered 400 pound leatherback turtle washed ashore on the Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable.
The still corpse of the turtle was taken in by the veterinarians of the New England Aquarium in order to perform a necropsy to better understand the cause of death of the endangered animal. After the operation, they reached the conclusion that the cause of death was mere human negligence.
The turtle had various lacerations on its fins due to rope entanglement, most likely from ropes used for fishing on the coastline, making it hard for the poor animal to swim effectively. Further enquiries were made by using X-Rays and they showed that the shell and bone structure sustained multiple fractures, and judging by the placement of said fractures and their healing stage they reached the conclusion that the turtle was struck by a large vessel most likely during this summer.
Due to the specific color of the shell, leatherback turtles are hard to spot in the dark-blue waters, making it relatively easy to hit them by accident especially in the summer. During these periods, turtles return to New England as part of their life cycle, in order to feed on the jellyfish found around the coast.
Inside its stomach, doctors also found a discarded candy wrapper and a 3 foot long piece of plastic sheet, which was probably the cause of death, making it harder for the turtle to digest food. Unfortunately this is not something out of the ordinary, human trash being one of the largest causes of marine wildlife death.
These are not the only ways humans affect the marine ecosystem daily, endangering marine wildlife everywhere. The nutrients released by fisheries in order to attract and farm more fish deliver a large hit to the marine food-chain, disrupting the balance. By fishing more and more, predatory wildlife no longer have the necessary prey and food source in order to live, slowly dying off.
The disruption of this balance can also be seen when applied to land animals. For example, in the UK, wolves were hunted almost to extinction, making the population of herbivores grow more and more until several species of plants went extinct.
Even if the leatherback turtles have been on earth for over 65 million years, evolution could not help them when confronted by man and so, sea turtles fall prey to human hazards once again, making their numbers fall more and more.