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Elderly Travelers

Tortuga marina

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Sea turtles are undoubtedly the longest-lived animals on the planet. Some species can reach up to 18 years of age. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of their lives is the great migration they must undertake for reproduction and the reproductive process itself.

The green turtle, for example, leaves the beaches of Brazil to reach Ascension Island, which is 2,3 kilometers away, in a solitary journey that constitutes a phenomenal navigation feat. In the months leading up to departure, females produce hundreds of follicles in their ovaries, which will become the yolks of the eggs. At the same time, males prepare for migration by producing large amounts of sperm. The arrival on the island coincides with the breeding season, and copulation occurs, lasting six hours. During this time, males attempt to copulate with as many females as possible, and females are copulated by several males, storing the sperm that they will later use to fertilize successive clutches. At the end of copulation, the males migrate back to their home area.

Meanwhile, the females remain close to the beaches where they will emerge four weeks later to deposit 12 eggs in the sand. After two weeks, they return and lay a second clutch of 12 eggs, continuing this process until the end of the breeding season. To lay each clutch, the females drag themselves along the beach to the dunes, where they dig a hole to deposit the eggs. Afterward, they painfully make their way back to the sea. Only females have the ability to move on a sandy beach, as males never leave the water.

Sea turtles are very fragile creatures. A discarded nylon bag on a beach can fly into the sea and float for many years before degrading. If a turtle encounters it, it may mistake it for its favorite food, jellyfish, and drown while attempting to eat it. Today, turtles are protected almost worldwide. One of the most significant initiatives is Brazil’s Tamar Project.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”