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Leatherback turtles reaching shores all over the place

June 12, 2008 |  1:30 pm


Californians can proudly claim a champion in the Great Turtle Race, an international event we told you about earlier this month that tracked the journey of 11 radio-tagged leatherbacks in the Pacific Ocean toward the International Date Line.

The first to reach the finish line was a turtle named Saphira II, sponsored by the Bullis Charter School of Los Altos, Calif. Turtle enthusiasts can relive the adventure by visiting the race's website and watching an interactive recreation using a rainbow of colors to differentiate the turtles.

But Saphira II and her competitors aren't the only leatherbacks making strides on the world's shores. The New York Times is also reporting that the creatures showed up for the first time in decades on Texas tan-tinged beaches near Corpus Christi:

For the first time since the 1930s, federal biologists confirmed that a leatherback sea turtle has nested on a Texas beach, at the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi.

Last Friday, staff conducting a beach patrol found turtle tracks and a few exposed eggs. They were thought at first to be those of a green turtle. But the eggs and the width of the tracks, more than 6 feet across, were later determined by a park biologist, Cynthia Rubio, to be from a leatherback. The giant turtles, endangered around the world, have until now only been known to nest in four spots in the United States –- with about three dozen females a year laying eggs on beaches along the east coast of Florida and slightly larger nesting populations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is evidence of nesting in North Carolina as well.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Scott Benson/U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service

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