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Shell Shocked: Protecting the rights of false crawlers

By Staff | Jun 3, 2015

Have you heard the startling news? Sea turtle nesting in Sanibel may set a record this year. According to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, which monitors sea turtle nesting, this year’s pace is ahead of 2014 when a total of 535 nests was recorded.

In fact, there will be so many baby turtles in Sanibel this year that each Sanibel homeowner will be required to adopt one. There will be a deluge of sea turtles in Sanibel and avoiding them in hair salons and beauty parlors will be a challenge.

The alligator population in Sanibel is incensed that another species is getting more attention in Sanibel media than it is. We asked Bob Turtleweather, the official spokesman for the Conservation Foundation, why sea turtles are doing more nesting this year and he has several theories.

“My first theory is that extra nesting is taking place this year in honor of Frank Sinatra’s one hundredth birthday celebration. Sanibel sea turtles simply love Sinatra. They traditionally mate to the strains of ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘Strangers in the Night.’

“Another theory I have is that we’ve had a record number of snowbirds and visitors this year and the sea turtles bided their time to return to the beaches. The beaches were just too crowded in March and April. They waited until everyone left and then returned with a vengeance. With so few people left, the sea turtles assumed ownership of the beaches and prepared for their annual spring rites.

“It was like the invasion of Normandy. They stormed the beaches in droves and dug their trenches. And when the Sinatra albums were turned on to encourage mating, the nesting season began in full swing.”

We noted that the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation also reported that there were many “false crawls” recorded this year among sea turtles. A false crawl is attributed to a sea turtle that comes ashore but doesn’t lay eggs. We asked Mr. Turtleweather why this would happen.

“The sea turtles not laying eggs don’t like Sinatra. They’re partial to Johnny Mathis. These false crawlers are considered snobs by the other sea turtles because they couldn’t care less about bringing new sea turtles into the world. They’re considered selfish because they don’t get it that procreation is one of the main responsibilities of sea turtles of mating age. The false crawlers come to the beach to get a suntan and then swim to Miami Beach. The sea turtle population is beginning to take serious measures against the false crawlers.

“To begin with, the false crawlers are being ostracized by the sea turtle population. For example, they are not allowed to attend sea turtle proms. Some are being forcibly rehabilitated by being required to attend nesting classes. But given the social climate these days where the civil rights of minorities are being protected more and more, the false crawlers are no longer the pariahs they once were.”

I asked Mr. Turtleweather why the false crawlers aren’t into nesting.

He responded by saying, “False crawlers tend to be the intellects of the species and have other interests. They collect stamps, they appear as guests on ‘Jeopardy’ and they compose operas. They tend to be asexual and don’t respond to Sinatra love songs.”

“But,” he pointed out, “they love Sanibel and visit the elementary school frequently. Children can be seen riding on the backs of false crawlers while the other sea turtles tend to their nesting business on the beach. Children love the false crawlers because they help them with their homework. You can often see the false crawler sea turtles joining the kids in sack races.”

Another reason that there may be a record number of sea turtle nests in Sanibel this year is the upcoming move of Doc Ford’s restaurant to Tarpon Bay Road. According to Mr. Turtleweather, sea turtles have been trying to dine at Doc Ford’s for many years now but the crawl to Rabbit and San-Cap Road from the beach has been just too exhausting for them. They have always been attracted to Doc Ford’s because of its world famous mussel recipe but simply couldn’t cover the distance.

“The sea turtle population in Sanibel will be larger than ever because of the Doc Ford’s move. Sea turtles will have an easier time crawling to the new site and won’t have to wait in line to get in. The management of Doc Ford’s assures us that there will be plenty of mussels to go around.”

Mr. Turtleweather cautioned returning snowbirds.

“Don’t be surprised to find sea turtles in your homes when you return. They are a protected species in Sanibel and have the right to sleep in your beds, watch your TVs and drink your vodka. They must never be harmed, embarrassed or insulted. The only remedy residents of Sanibel have is to also apply for protection under the endangered species laws. Only then will humans have the same rights as sea turtles.”

Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.