In April 2019, workers at the Maafaru Airport in the Maldives came across a shocking sight. When they got to work, they found an endangered green sea turtle lying on the runway, a trail of eggs behind her.
There was a reason the turtle came here to lay her eggs—this had once been her home.
The Maafaru Airport runway lies on what was once an active turtle nesting site. Sea turtles almost always lay their eggs on the same beach where they were born. Sometimes, they’ll even go on multi-year journeys to reach this beach.
The sea turtle in the photo was probably born on this beach, and she had probably laid her own eggs on the beach before it was paved over.
“Most of the species [of sea turtles] are drawn to the same area where they themselves were born and where they have nested in the past,” David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, told The Dodo. “That turtle was very likely born and hatched on that stretch of beach… For the turtle to be dropping her eggs tells me it’s not the first time she came to this shore.”
Thankfully, the turtle on the runway was found in good health, and locals were able to guide her back to the ocean. But this problem isn’t going away—many other turtles have also come to lay eggs on this beach and found a runway.
“Despite the construction of the runway, the frequency with which turtles visit the island for nesting purposes has not decreased,” a source from Maafaru Island Council told the Edition.
Construction isn’t even finished yet on the new Maafaru Airport. Eventually, the airport will be capable of holding six jets, and there are also plans to build a new hotel and resort on the beach. All this construction will make it even harder for green sea turtles to find a place to lay their eggs.
Environmental activists are trying to work with the Maldives government to find a solution to this problem. The activists are working with developers to try and create sustainable developmental models that will help save the Maldives’ unique animals and plant species.
The Maldives isn’t the only place where sea turtles are struggling. As the oceans get warmer and sea levels rise, shorelines are getting thinner and it’s getting harder and harder for turtles to find places to lay their eggs. Turtles need our help now more than ever.
“Sea turtles need voices,” Godfrey said. “Voices from voters, from citizens — they rely on us.”
Tourism is continuing to grow in the Maldives, and because of that, it’s vital that environmental activists and developers work together to create a plan to keep the sea turtles and their eggs safe. If you want to learn more about these endangered turtles, check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website.
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