|Can you locate 4 different species?|
Beachgoers came across this fat little Kemps Ridley sea turtle half-buried in the seaweed that covered a good thick strip along the shoreline on Mustang Island off the coast of South Texas a few hot summers ago. The thick Sargassum matt, where sea life thrives and baby sea turtles grow to a size more likely to escape at least the threat of sea gulls, now gave some shelter to this stranded little one. But with one flipper already amputated by plastic ribbons from either rope or vinyl tarp, her chances of getting out of the tangled mass and back into the open water were slim.
|Sargassum full of plastic as it washes in on Bermuda|
The vacationing couple in their 20's who found the turtle just outside my home, covered her gently in a wet cloth and asked anyone who passed for help. Word reached me quickly. I went out to see the status of the turtle and phoned Donna Shaver's team at the Padre Island National Seashore. They directed the call to Tony Amos at the Port Aransas Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARC) and this baby Lepidochelys kempii was soon taken to the ARC for medical care.
In the good hands of the knowledgeable and qualified staff at the ARC, I imagine this turtle recovered and was released at an appropriate time in a well-considered place. Though sea turtles missing a flipper are as common in the sea as three-legged dogs are on land, no one can know her true fate or how long she survived. I do know her appearance on the beach that day was life changing and impactful on the tourists who found her and, subsequently, on those who heard their story and saw the pictures.
Seeing the tiny bones and pink flesh sticking out beyond the little tourniquet of plastic, I know that education doesn't get any more raw than this. Our personal experiences seeing harmful human-caused results are the only thing that can augment how and when we take personal responsibility for the impact of our actions on the environment. This turtle lost her right arm to our use of plastics. Her story needs to be shared and shared widely.