Have you ever noticed strange animal tracks on a Mediterranean beach? Along Italy’s shore, the sightings of sea turtles have become more regular in recent years. Caretta caretta, the protected loggerhead turtle, arrives at night looking for a place in the sand to lay her eggs. After depositing around 100 eggs, she uses her fins to cover the nest with sand. The procedure takes up to three hours. But by the early morning, the turtle is in the water again.
I learnt about this while accompanying a friend on turtle track watch in the Maremma nature park. We left at dawn, as it is easiest to spot the tracks early in the morning. Sea turtle tracks are large and make one think of a motor vehicle first. However, they do not run parallel to the shore but lead out of the water and back into it.
If you find tracks like that, make sure to call the Italian coast guard immediately:
1530 (24h toll-free number).
The coast guard will ask you to mark your exact position on Google Maps. If possible, wait for them or leave a sign to make sure nobody walks across the presumed hatching ground until a guard, park ranger or WWF can verify the situation.