ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Aligators, caimen, crocodiles, terrapins, tortoises and turtles exotic to South Africa.

ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:08 pm

We have posted about sea turtles here before, but for those of you who don't know, Tim Baynham (nyami), Nicole Mann (hissing roach) and myself manage a sea turtle conservation project in Soyo, Northern Angola. Our project focuses on protecting nesting females, their nests and the education of the local community of Soyo.

Yesterday we recieved a call from one of the neighboring fishing villages reporting that the turtle patrol team on the peninsula had found a nest containing 13 white hatchling sea turtles. In the past, Tim and I have found very light coloured hatchlings dead in nests we have excavated, but never any true albinos. We instructed one of our team members to go out and retrive the suspect white turtles for futher inspection. This is what we found:

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These are Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, Lepidochelys olivacea, but as you can see, there is nothing olive about these little ones.

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You can clearly see the red blood filled eyes of this true albino marine turtle.

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These rareties (13) hatched from a nest containing another 47 natural (grey) coloured Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Only 1 natural grey coloured hatchling was found dead in the nest.

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For those interested in biometric data, of the 13 albinos, the average SCL was 41.52mm and average weight was 13.23g.

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As usual we make sure the hatchlings make it down the beach safely. Their lack of color actually makes them less visible on the beach sand than their natural coloured brothers and sisters.

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This was actually quite a sad release for me, as turtle biologists estimated that only 1 in a 1,000 hatchlings will survive to sexual maturity. I wonder what chance, if any, an albino turtle would have of surviving?

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We wish them well, but chances are we will never see an albino sea turtle again! Hope you all enjoy these unique marine turtles as much as we did.

Regards,
HH
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Westley Price » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:11 pm

Great post!

I have no doubt that every single one of them will be dead in a few months time, but that is the way of the wild I guess.

The appear so fragile.

Couldn't you possibly motivate to keep these or is there no reason to keep them?
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Silvrav » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:12 pm

That is one awesome site. Must have been much better in person as well.!

Good luck and well done on the work you guys are doing up there. Every bit makes a difference.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby CarlaSmit87 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:19 pm

This is amazing, thanks for letting us know
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Mitton » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:31 pm

Really amazing, I also wonder about maybe keeping a couple back but you guys probably don't have the facilities to keep any?
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Ales » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:03 pm

That is too amazing!

I'm sure a local aquarium can raise 3 or 4 or them in a big tank,then they can be kept at an aquarium in one of those massive walk through tanks.
I suppose its too late now.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Wolf777 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:22 pm

That's what some would call a once in a lifetime opportunity, must have been really amazing! A part of me thinks it was the right thing to do to release them since you don't want to interfere with nature, but another part thinks you should have tried and kept them, it would certainly have been tempting to keep a few since their survival chances are especially slim now.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby fredsmith » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:36 pm

Wow!
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Bushviper » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:48 pm

Wow that is amazing. The chances that the parents will meet up are also pretty slim I guess. I am sorry but I would have kept some back. Releasing them would not help them that much more than keeping a few back as ambassadors for the species. I am sure this would jeopardise your permits that you are operating under in Angola.

Such a pity to see them swim away to almost certain death.

I am so glad you did manage to get photos of them so that we can see what must be a one in many million chance of ever seeing something like that.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:25 pm

I kind of expected to get comments like this back. I too have internal battles with myself being a conservationist and having a personal interest in herpetoculture at the same time. Believe me, releasing the first albinos I have ever found was not easy, especially with the knowledge that they are likely to be fish food before they even make it out to sea.

If there was the possibility to send these albino turtles to world class aquariums or zoos then that would have been my first option. The unfortunate reality is these turtles hatched in a remote part of Northern Angola and I have no suitable facilities here to keep them healthy for longer than even a day. I have often had to hold back on releasing hatchlings turtles for various reasons (artificial lighting, dredging activity etc.). I know from experience that whenever I have had to release hatchling turtles after being held in captivity for longer than a day, they lose condition very quickly and some exhaust themselves (from the instinct to crawl or swim to the ocean) so much that when they are finally released they barely have the energy to crawl anymore. In this case there was no option but to release them to nature.

Furthermore, sea turtles are highly specialized reptiles that only a few top class aquariums are able replicate the marine environment sufficiently to maintain these animals for any length of time in captivity. For those who believe there are some reptiles not suitable for captivity, the marine turtles are on the top of that list.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby levi_20 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:01 pm

Great post, thanks!!
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:07 pm

Thanks you all.

But for me this experience really defines the expression, "bitter sweet".
An inaccurate naturalist is a pest and a danger, forever perpetuating illogical deductions and landing later naturalists in trouble. Damm and blast them all to hell in the most painful way. C.J.P. Ionides
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Graeme » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:34 pm

Shame man, I can feel your heartbreak a thousand miles away. A beautiful post.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Spider » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:38 pm

I'm sure this will go down as one off the greatest finds in reptile history. Simply amazing.
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Re: ALBINO SEA TURTLES

Postby Westley Price » Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:08 am

This is the scientist in my speaking, but wouldn't it have been worthwhile to pickle one specimen?

HH, no need to regret anything. You have pictures to record your great experience and that is all you need.

If they would have died in your care (or the care of others for that matter) it would have felt even worse.

All I can say is I hope you took a lot more pics that the few posted above ;)
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