Alex McCaskill, 16, a sophomore at Goliad High School, is helping to save the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles for his final project to become an Eagle Scout.

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, categorized as critically endangered, is the world’s most endangered sea turtle. Poaching and incidental takes by commercial fisheries are the main reasons for the decline in population.

The turtles need everyone’s attention if they are going to survive. McCaskill’s efforts are a small but important part of the effort to conserve these amazing creatures that can weigh up to 100 pounds and live up to 50 years.

The Kemp’s Ridleys are among the smallest sea turtles with greenish-grey shells that reach a length of 2 feet.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 female turtles are left in the wild, said Cynthia Rubio, supervisory biologist with the division of sea turtle science and recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.

“After 40 years of efforts in the U.S. and Mexico, we are starting to see them come back. Because of the human impacts, we have an obligation to protect the species,” Rubio said.

McCaskill, his scoutmasters and members of Boy Scout Troop 113 built 40 PVC pipe carriers to hold Styrofoam ice chests for transporting and incubating the endangered sea turtle eggs.

As part of a patrol program at Padre Island National Seashore and along the coastline, groups of employees, interns and volunteers look for turtle tracks on beaches from sunrise to sunset from April to mid-July. The locations where the turtles nest are marked and the eggs are retrieved and placed in the protective egg carriers. The carriers, which can be safely strapped in vehicle seats, were invented more than 20 years ago to prevent bouncing that might cause damage to the eggs.

When the eggs hatch after 45 to 50 days in an incubation room, the turtles are released immediately into the wild.

Biodiversity provides food, cleans the water supply, provides medicines for curing illnesses and even creates the oxygen needed to breathe, according the American Museum of Natural History. By driving many species to extinction, man cannot count on nature to continue providing these necessities.

The Victoria Advocate applauds McCaskill for his choice of Eagle Scout projects and urges Crossroads residents to appreciate the importance of protecting species such as the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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