By Andrew Atkinson in San Pedro del Pinatar

SAN Pedro del Pinatar conservation centre has been the home of Boba (Caretta Caretta) – loggerhead turtles – that were born last year in La Manga del Mar Menor.

Initially 47 turtles were at the IMIDA centre in San Pedro del Pinatar, which hatched in La Manga del Mar Menor last summer, as part of the Head-Starting technique, designed to increase their chances of survival.

Only one in 1,000 hatchlings will reach adulthood and the project aims to give them a head start in life by rearing the turtles in captivity until they weigh around one kilo, at about one year, to improve their chances.

Turtles weighed daily at San Pedro conservation sanctuary. Photo: Andrew Atkinson.

A meagre one in 1000 survive, due to predators, including birds, crabs, along with dangers of being caught up in fishing nets, and the ingestion of plastics in the sea.

In 1870 in Murcia little information was known of turtles eggs laying. Latest data includes in 2019 five events of eggs being laid. In 2020 in La Manga 100 eggs were laid.

Some eggs were moved to a more secure beach area to help successful hatchlings and others moved to incubation.

Once hatched at the San Pedro conservation sanctuary they were placed into tanks and the installation of microchips undertaken to identify each one, weighed on a daily basis.

“Now that the turtles are strong enough, they will be returning to the Mediterranean Sea after being released from the same beach where they were born,” said Fran, from the San Pedro del Pinatar conservation centre.

“The turtles will be taken to Valencia – in the final step before returning to the sea.

Territorio Tortuga: Turtles in tanks at Las Salinas centre in San Pedro del Pinatar. Photo: Andrew Atkinson.

In Valencia the turtles will be monitored, to see if the can feed on their own. Once that is established they will return to the sea,” added Fran.

It is hoped that they will choose the same location to lay their own eggs in the future.

In 2019 the first turtle nest was found on a beach in the region for the first time in a century.

21 eggs were placed into incubation, hatched and taken to San Pedro del Pinatar and the Oceanographic Centre in Valencia.

Staff at the regional wildlife recovery centre Centre de Recuperation de Fauna Silvestre de El Valle, along with the Universidad de Valencia and Universidad Polytechnica de Valencia are involved in the wellbeing of turtles.

The loggerhead turtles remain a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Call 112 if you see turtle trails in the sand. Do not touch turtles as this can jeopardise laying of eggs. In 2019 two failed nesting attempts in La Manga were reported.