Loggerhead turtles die off as others thriveEarly edition: The ancient reptiles aren't nesting like they used to,troubled by toxins, disease and development.By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff WriterPublished November 27, 2006
The remarkable reptiles known as loggerhead turtles may be in trouble.These sea turtles live 60 years or longer and can swim across the AtlanticOcean and back. Females return to the precise Florida beaches where theywere born - including some in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties - so theycan crawl onto shore and lay eggs in the sand.Usually.But during the past half-dozen years, loggerhead turtle nesting in Floridahas dropped sharply. Fewer loggerheads are laying eggs in Florida, eventhough other Florida sea turtles, such as greens and leatherbacks, actuallyare nesting more.David Godfrey, executive director of the Caribbean Conservation Corp., saidthe dropoff in loggerhead nesting "really represents a drastic decline inthe Western Hemisphere population." He worries that a species that hassurvived since the time of the dinosaurs "could get to a point whereextinction is not beyond the realm of possibility within our lifetimes."The recent decline in Florida's loggerhead nesting concerns researchers andenvironmentalists, even though they expect some ups and downs in the data.For years, loggerheads were considered a conservation success story, achange from the days of old-time Florida restaurants that specialized inturtle soup.