August 19, 2017 10:23 pm Last modified: 5:14 am

Leatherback Sea Turtle Recovery Project Continues at Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is again offering youth groups and community groups the opportunity to visit Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge during the 2014 leatherback sea turtle nesting season at the refuge.
The leatherback sea turtle recovery project began monitoring and management activities at Sandy Point in 1977. The project has since developed into one of the most comprehensive, long-term sea turtle research and recovery efforts in the world. This work contributed to the creation of the refuge as the first in the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System established for the purpose of protecting endangered sea turtles. During the last three decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of nesting leatherbacks, from less than 20 in the early years to more than 100 in recent years.
Since 1997, thousands of schoolchildren and adults from the St. Croix community have participated in an escorted night visit to the refuge beach to see female leatherback sea turtles digging their nests and laying eggs. Later in the season, program participants watch hatchlings emerge from their nests and crawl to the sea. The program has provided countless community members the opportunity to learn and experience more about protecting the Virgin Islands’ leatherback turtles.
The Turtle Watch Education Program is offered to youth groups and community groups. The program runs from Tuesdays through Saturdays starting in April and running through the end of July. Reservations are only accepted for groups with at least 15 but no more than 30 people. No individual reservations are allowed. Weekend nights are limited to youth groups. Great care is taken by the program coordinator and the research team to minimize any disturbance to the turtles.
For more information or to make a reservation, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 690-9452 or sandypoint.turtlewatch@gmail.com.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses more than 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, and 78 ecological services field stations.
The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the federal aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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