This Seaside Species Is Flourishing, Thanks To The Absence Of Humans

Wait until you hear the great news coming from coastlines across the globe – and just in time for Earth Day!

I remember a saying my mother shared with me a lot when I was growing up: "When the cat's away, the mice will play."

She was usually referring to something my brother did to get himself into trouble while she and my dad were at work.

My brother and I were what they used to call "latchkey kids." Starting when I was in about fifth grade, and my brother was in seventh, we were left to fend for ourselves for a few hours every day after school until my parents got home from their day jobs.

While we got into our share of mischief, we mostly used our time alone to work on our hobbies. I liked to read and draw; my brother played video games or would shoot hoops in the driveway. It was our time to do whatever we wanted; to live as we liked without our parents telling us what or what not to do. It was freedom.

Fast forward to today. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, self-quarantined due to a massive global pandemic, there are dozens of headlines about animal populations that are thriving since we humans have been on lockdown.

For example, thanks to the absence of foot traffic on beaches, leatherback sea turtles are breeding in record numbers -- and their babies are surviving in record numbers, too.

Baby leatherback sea turtles are an inch long when they're born, but can grow to be 2,000 pounds.

In Thailand, environmentalists have found 11 leatherback sea turtle nests since November, the most they've seen on their beaches in over two decades.

When the cat's away, the mice will play.

"This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans," Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre in Thailand, told The Guardian.

At Florida's Juno Beach, researchers have logged 76 nests along 9.5 miles of coastline, a large increase from previous years.

Leatherback turtles spend most of their time in the ocean. The females only come to the coast to lay their eggs.

Less human traffic on the beaches is good for the survival of the giant turtle species for a number of reasons, according to David Godfrey, the executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida.

"The chances that turtles are going to be inadvertently struck and killed will be lower," Godfrey said. "All of the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment. Ingestion and entanglement in plastic and marine debris also are leading causes of injury to sea turtles."

Thanks to a lot less foot traffic on beaches, sea animal populations are growing in record numbers.

While humans will eventually return to the beaches after the lockdown orders have been lifted, maybe these moments will encourage us to adopt more sustainable habits so that we can continue to see headlines like this even after the coronavirus is gone.

Or, perhaps the "cat" should stay away a little while longer so the "mice" can play.

How can you start something good?

On this Earth Day, challenge yourself to think of ways that YOU can help keep the planet healthy, during the coronavirus and after the pandemic is over.

Maybe you can walk to the store instead of drive, or think of better ways to recycle and re-use your trash.

If you want to honor the planet from home, check out this Sparkt story to learn how you can get involved and celebrate Earth Day digitally.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together!

The Conversation
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