Hawksbill nesting in Barbuda lower than usual

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The damage done to the coastline of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma has had a negative effect on the nesting of the hawksbill sea turtles on the sister island.
Head of the Antigua Sea Turtle Project, Mykl Clovis-Fuller, made the disclosure recently to OBSERVER media.
“Overall, we did see a lower level of nesting than we expected, judging from the stints we’ve spent on Barbuda before. Once we do the number we will have a better idea if it was an overall lower number but in general the activity was lighter than we expected and we wonder if it is because of the damage to the habitat,” Fuller explained.
She stated that the hawksbill turtle, unlike other species, does not nest in the open but within the vegetation of the beach and the lack of vegetation regrowth since Hurricane Irma devastated the island in September 2017 was a concern to her and her team as they carried out their research.
Clovis-Fuller said that the Antigua Sea Turtle Project conducted a three week project in Barbuda in conjunction with the Barbuda Council to gather data on the nesting habits of turtles on the 11-mile beach on the west coast of the island.
She said that they expected the coastline to have been damaged by the Category 5 superstorm but they were taken aback by the amount of dead vegetation and minimal regrowth of the coastal vegetation. According to Fuller, the situation in Barbuda further highlights the importance of keeping natural habitats intact and how the most minute of changes and changes we cannot control could have long lasting adverse effects on endangered species.
She also stressed that the option of transferring eggs to a different habitat does not always generate the results intended. She used the example of Bermuda which imported eggs from a South American country and buried them on their shorelines only to have just a few return to the nesting site.
Clovis-Fuller acknowledged that despite the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, the coastal habitat in Barbuda is far superior to that of Antigua. According to her, the natural state of the Barbudan coast, the limited removal of vegetation, the lack of coastal development and traffic are reasons so many turtles have nested in Barbuda over the years.
Clovis-Fuller said that there have been efforts in Antigua to make the coastline more conducive to turtle nesting. She mentioned that the installation of lights to keep turtles from wandering across the road, the continuous education of the general public and hoteliers to leave as much of the natural beach vegetation intact as well as reducing pollution in coastal areas are some of the ways that nesting areas can be improved in Antigua.
She thanked Barbuda Council members, Kendra Beazer and Asha Frank whom she said took time out of their schedules to participate in excursions and help with the initiative.
Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback turtles come to shore in Antigua and Barbuda every year between the months of March and November. The hawksbill turtle is considered an endangered species.

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