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Captiva kids learn about the lives of sea turtles

By Staff | Jul 2, 2009

As part of the Captiva Memorial Library’s “Get Creative @ Your Library” summer reading and event program, Phyllis Gresham of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge gave a presentation for Captiva kids and visitors about the life of sea turtles and some important rules for beachgoers to keep in mind during nesting season.

With several specimens and posters on hand, Gresham taught the kids everything there is to know about these majestic ocean creatures – from mother turtles returning to the coast where they themselves were hatched to lay their pingpong ball-sized eggs to the perilous journey from nest to ocean once the hatchlings emerge from the nest.

The children learned important anatomical information about sea turtles, including the carapace (the shell on the turtle’s back), the plastron (the shell on the turtle’s belly) and the scutes (the bony external plates found on the carapace and the plastron).

With these new vocabulary words, Gresham told the children a tale about how some cultures believe the turtle shell is a symbol for the lunar year, as most turtles have 13 scutes on their carapace (representing 13 moons in the lunar year).

Gresham also read a storybook to the children, detailing the life cycle of the sea turtle.

She explained how the turtles build their nest and the many dangers – both human and animal – facing sea turtles, especially as the hatchlings try to make it into the safety of the ocean.

“Only one in 1,000 turtles makes it into the water,” Gresham said.

The children learned how things like beachchairs, large holes and bright lights along the shoreline can endanger nesting moms and newborn sea turtles.

Greshman also talked about the predators – such as raccoons, birds and crabs – that prey on sea turtle eggs and hatchlings.

“If you find a baby turtle that’s been left behind, put it in a bucket with wet sand, put it in the shade and call CROW or SCCF and they will have somebody come and get it and what they’ll do is bring the turtle out to the water at night,” Gresham said.

If you find a turtle, call the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) at 472-3644 or the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation at 472-2329.

After Gresham finished her presentation, the kids were given a big tub of colorful markers, paper plates and green paper heads and flippers to make their very own sea turtles.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located at 1 Wildlife Drive on Sanibel. For more information about the J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, call 472-1100.

The next library event, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 11 will be “Papier Mache with DeVitto Kelly,” during which attendees will have the chance to make their very own papier mache flamingoes.

The Captiva Memorial Library is located at 11560 Chapin Lane.

For more information, call 472-2133.