Book review of My Life With Sea Turtles by Christine Figgener, Jane Billinghurst

Books


Almost 60 years ago, herpetologist and conservationist Archie Carr introduced the beauty and splendor of sea turtles to the world in his now classic So Excellent a Fishe. It was 1967, and Carr was already warning readers of the dangers these magnificent creatures faced due to fishing nets, ocean pollution and human encroachment on breeding grounds. The plight of sea turtles hasn’t improved much since Carr’s time, but thanks to marine biologist and ecologist Christine Figgener’s captivating My Life With Sea Turtles: A Marine Biologist’s Quest to Protect One of the Most Ancient Animals on Earth, readers can understand the life cycle of sea turtles, the forces that endanger them and the steps we must take to save them from extinction.

Figgener was in an undergraduate research program in Egypt when she encountered her first sea turtle and, mesmerized, watched it swim through the waters of the Red Sea. She moved to Costa Rica to work as a research assistant in an organization devoted to saving endangered leatherback turtles from extinction. Figgener recounts this early research with urgency that brings you right into the moment with her, peering at a sea turtle as she lays her eggs in the sand. 

With zeal and passion, Figgener shares a wealth of information about these creatures. For example, sea turtles migrate back and forth between their nesting beaches and their feeding grounds, some species covering as many as 7,450 miles from site to site. Nesting female sea turtles lay hundreds of eggs each year, but only 50-60% hatch, and once the hatchlings leave the nest, only a small percentage survive the arduous journey back to the ocean, sneaking or scuttling by predatory birds and crabs. Once in the ocean, the newborns face marine predators and must navigate polluted waters filled with plastics and fishing nets that can ensnare, maim or kill them. 

Part memoir, part science reporting and part conservationist tract, Figgener’s illuminating My Life With Sea Turtles sheds light not only on the beauty and mystery of sea turtles, but also on the urgent need to save them.



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