Conservationists gathered along the coast of Espirito Santo in Brazil to monitor a loggerhead turtle laying her eggs. The area is expected to be covered imminently by the mudflow from two burst dams. Conservationists are concerned that a change to the local ecosystem could threaten animals living in the area.
The loggerhead turtle is an endangered species, which regularly lays its eggs on this coastline spot according to the Tamar conservation project, which is based in the area. But after a mining disaster in the neighbouring state of Minas Gerais two weeks ago, mud is starting to settle in. Scientists say the sediment, which may contain chemicals used by the mine to reduce iron ore impurities, could reduce oxygen and alter pH levels in the water, causing great harm to aquatic life.
"This is a loggerhead sea turtle, the species is named caretta caretta," conservationist Tomy Magalhaes Souto explained. "She was marked today for the first time. She has just laid her eggs, and it's a fairly typical species here in the region, especially along the coastline of Espirito Santo and on the beach here."
According to Tamar, each nest contains around 120 eggs, which are covered over and camouflaged with sand by the mother, and left to incubate for 45 to 60 days.
The Brazilian Environment Institute (Ibama) and the Chico Mendes Conservation and Biodiversity Institute (ICMBio) began removing young turtles from the area on 20 November, as temporary barriers have also been put in place along the Rio Doce. Similar efforts are also under way to remove endangered fish species from the river, and transfer them to clean waters.
Environmental police have been documenting the damages and sending reports to federal prosecutors in charge of the case surrounding the burst dams. A spokesman said it was still difficult to determine the extent of the damage, but the mining companies would have to pay for the recovery efforts.
Currently, five of the world´s seven species of turtle exist in Brazil, four of which lay their eggs along the coast and one on oceanic islands. The coastal turtles lay their eggs between September and March, emerging from the water at night, to avoid exposure to the sun.