Scientists relocate nest of 200 Hawksbill sea turtle eggs on Maui

Updated: Aug. 19, 2017 at 4:05 PM HST
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MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over 200 eggs of a critically endangered sea turtle species now have a better chance of survival after an emergency relocation Friday, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said.

Working with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, specially trained biologists and volunteers relocated 241 Hawksbill sea turtle eggs from a Maui beach to an undisclosed location. Officials say the move was necessary as rising tides threatened the nest.

"Hawksbills are incredibly rare, and with so few nests in Hawaii a loss like this would have been devastating," Michelle Bogardus, team leader for Maui Nui and Hawaii Islands Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office said.

On average, female Hawksbills can lay 180 eggs per nest, but the survival rate of hatchlings is less that one percent.

Normally, nest relocating is not a common practice for organizations like the Hawaii Wildlife Fund Hawksbill Recovery Project, co-coordinator Luke Sundquist said.

Sundquist said this situation was different because the nest was under imminent threat.

The nest was moved just a day after over 170 turtles hatched from another nest on the beach. Scientists say there are four nests on the beach all from the same female Hawksbill.

In 1970, Hawksbill turtles were granted federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Prior to that, the turtles were hunted for their shells.

The average incubation period for Hawksbill turtle eggs is about two months. Experts are closely monitoring the nests around the clock to ensure the eggs go unharmed.

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