Nearly 100 critically endangered sea turtles have hatched on a deserted beach in Brazil due to coronavirus quarantine.
According to Paulista City Hall, with nobody to disturb them, around 97 Hawksbill sea turtles were able to make their way to the Atlantic Ocean.
This popular destination is usually packed with tourists who crowd the beaches to witness the delicate baby turtles hatching from their eggs.
But Brazilian authorities had ordered a partial lockdown that saw residents urged to stay indoors, preventing them from gathering on the beach.
Government officials were the only ones who witnessed the hawksbill sea turtles breaking free from their shells and taking their first steps toward the sea.
These tiny sea turtles are critically vulnerable after hatching and are at risk of being snatched by passing birds or crushed by beachgoers.
A statement from City Hall of Paulista reported that the successful hatching of the eggs and the first contact of the animals with the water was only possible due to monitoring work carried out by technicians of the Urban Sustainability Center.
Paulista environmental secretary, Roberto Couto, told the Guardian:
“It’s really beautiful because you can see the exact instant they come out of the eggs and… watch their little march across the beach. It’s marvelous. It’s a wonderful, extraordinary feeling.”
“This time, because of coronavirus, we couldn’t even tell people it was happening.”
Hawksbills can grow to up to 45 inches in length and 68kg (150 pounds) in weight and are listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the World Wildlife Fund.
Speaking about the rare sighting, Herbert Andrade, Environmental Manager at Paulista, said:
“In all, 291 sea turtles were born on the coast of Paulista in 2020, with 87 green turtles and 204 hawksbill turtles. This time, due to preventive measures against the new coronavirus, the population was unable to closely monitor the birth.”
Sea turtles’ existence is vital to marine ecosystems as they help maintain the health of coral reefs and seagrass beds.
According to a US-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, since sea turtles rely on both land and sea throughout their life cycles, species, especially the hawksbill, are threatened by the effects of global heating, with sea level rise posing an existential threat to the species and their nesting sites.
Brazil’s Tamar conservation project has been established to protect the hawksbill, as well as other species, such as the ridley sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle, all of which are endangered.