I’ve lived in this neighborhood forever. FOR-EVER. Incidentally, it’s all relative, because my forever might only be half of your forever, and isn’t even close to forever in the grand scheme of foreverness. However, every year of my forever has included the ever-present Diamond Backed Terrapins. So, it was, but wasn’t really a surprise, when I foudn this beauty crossing the road today. She was beautiful, and headed somewhere to do her duty in creating the next batch of tiny terrapins. I rescued her from the road grabbed some photos, and let her go.
Now, time for a little education. Today, in the Florida Today Newspaper, there was an article about the decline of the Indian River Lagoon system. This is precisely where I live. I’m near two portions of that system known as the Banana and Indian Rivers. While this particular species of Terrapin isn’t uncommon in this part of Florida, it is unusual as a species. They are the only turtles that live in estuarian (brackish water) systems for their entire life cycle. Their health is a great indicator of lagoon health. I have been keeping track of the numbers of and measurements related to them for about three years. I noticed a change last year, when I found a grand total of one compared to the 26 found the previous year. There has been a lot of speculation about the problems in the lagoon system, but many people, who are as smart as any scientists, but not degreed, agree that the problem is the water flow, the fertilizer run-off, water heating due to power plants, and manatees. The manatee issue is a topic for a whole ‘nother post, but I’ll leave you to think about this. Manatees are barely found in the fossil record, they are warm water animals who primarily migrated before the influx of warm water deposited by our power plants. Perhaps the presence of hundreds of them in small areas is akin to farm pollution. So I think, our lagoon is being poisoned and smothered naturally and chemically by our doing. I’m not saying open season on manatees, but we need to stop attracting them to small areas, or at all. THAT is unnatural.
So back to the terrapin. Florida is the only state with no protection for terrapins, and little is known about the population that resides here. Actually, the lagoon itself is kind of an obscure area of study, just like them. If Florida, and the United States wants to preserve this lagoon system, which by-the-way hosts more species than any other system in the United States, we need to draw attention to the problems, and maybe, just maybe, my little turtle friend here, is the answer. Diamond-Back Terrapins are protected all along the eastern seaboard and in Texas, the only areas in the U.S. where they reside, maybe by drawing attention to their presence here, they could be the spokes animal for a lagoon rescue mission. There are some special differences in the species here, just like the dolphins, but no one is looking. Maybe it’s time to be interested.
- Mysterious manatee deaths cause concern (wptv.com)
- Mysterious, New Ailment Kills Manatees off of Florida Coast (scienceworldreport.com)
- Manatee deaths at Indian River Lagoon: Questions abound in mysterious deaths of manatees, pelicans (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Indian River Lagoon manatee deaths (wptv.com)