The Israel Nature and Parks Authority called on the public on Monday not to drive along beaches, after a loggerhead turtle hatchling heading out to sea was discovered trapped in a depression caused by tire markings on Zikim Beach, close to the Gaza border in southern Israel.
Driving, forbidden by law on all of Israel’s beaches, can also damage turtle egg nests.
Green and loggerhead turtles, both endangered and protected by law, return each year to the Israeli beaches where they were born to dig nests and lay their eggs before covering the nests up with sand and lumbering back to the sea.
Hatching season lasts from May to August, during which the little hatchlings scuttle toward the waves, usually at night, with the natural light on the horizon to guide them.
The hatchling trapped in the tire markings was lucky enough to be spotted by an INPA inspector and helped to get to sea.
Others are not so fortunate. The threats they face include predators such as seabirds and crabs, but increasingly also coastal development. Lghts from hotels and homes, for example, can confuse them and cause them to go in the wrong direction.
The INPA is appealing to the public to avoid visiting beaches at night. If you have to visit, keep as quiet as possible, do not light fires, and keep lighting to a minimum, a spokesman said. Trash, which can serve as a barrier, even a trap, for the turtles, should also not be left on the beach.
Anyone who comes across a mature sea turtle, nest or hatchling was asked not to touch it but to call the INPA at *3639.
There are seven species of sea turtle in the world, six of which are classified as threatened, endangered or critically endangered. They face threats of hunting, pollution, getting caught in fishing nets and climate change.