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News: CHELCO helps protect sea turtles

 

CHELCO recently added three turtle-friendly light shields to streetlights near The Red Bar in Grayton Beach. After a report that hatchlings were traveling toward CHELCO lights instead of the Gulf of Mexico, CHELCO Lighting Coordinator Cynthia "Sinder" Perring and CHELCO Services Inc.(CSI) took immediate action. Within two hours, aluminum shields that block radiant light were in place.

Red Bar owner Philippe Petite, who leases the lights, was happy to help CHELCO and the sea turtles. "We want to be a good friend to the turtles and the turtle watch group," he said.

While most CHELCO lighting on the beach is already turtle-friendly, these three lights were on the northern boundary of the 750-foot. Wildlife Conservation Zone and had never posed a problem in the past. But this year, the glow from the streetlights disoriented the hatchlings, causing them to travel toward the road instead of toward the light of the horizon.

A turtle hatchling’s natural instinct is to move toward the brightest light, which in nature is the light of the night sky reflecting off the Gulf water. Therefore, any streetlights in the turtles’ immediate surroundings must be shielded to prevent such misdirection.

South Walton Turtle Watch, a group of citizens dedicated to protecting sea turtles, rescued the confused turtles and turned them back toward the gulf. The group was able to redirect 49 live hatchlings. They contacted CHELCO the next morning and reported the problem. Perring quickly located the three necessary light shields and dispatched CSI’s lighting team to install them. Shortly after lunch, the shields were in place.

Thanks to Perring and CSI’s quick action "three more nests in the same area stand a better chance of making it without human intervention," said Bobby Stuart, area coordinator for the middle-east sect of South Walton Turtle Watch.

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