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Why do turtles eat plastic?

Tartarughe mangiano plastica

 

TUKIKI: WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH TURTLES?

 

Tukiki was born from a passion, like all projects that start with big dreams. The passion that has guided us until here has an unmistakable silhouette and face, which you can easily recognize in our logo. Even our brand name isn’t purely a product of our imagination, but it derives from "tukik", a Balinese word meaning "little sea turtle".

 

Those who have ever been snorkelling know it: the charm of the underwater world is truly powerful and the experience of swimming with a turtle is unforgettable. Because we know this well, we couldn’t be indifferent to the photographs of these dead animals on the shores, suffocated by straws and shopping bags, poisoned by the plastic that us humans throw into the sea, victims of a habitat now compromised by pollution, Thus Tukiki was born from the hope of saving some of these animals, and from the desire to actively engage in something we love.

  

 

To build something useful, however, you must first read, get to know, learn. So let's start from the basics: why are turtles so badly threatened by the plastic that floats in the oceans? According to Legambiente’s researchers, 80% of the animals housed in the recovery centres had ingested plastic: cotton buds, plastic bags, pieces of dishes, various types of packaging.

 

"Dimethyl sulphide is released by microorganisms that colonize plastic"

 

 

tartaruga mangia plastica scambiata per medusa 


The first problem is evident for anyone who dives into the water and sees a floating plastic bag in the distance: it is easy to understand how a turtle can confuse it with one of its favourite meals, the jellyfish. It has recently been discovered, thanks to some researchers from the University of Florida, that the problem is more complex: plastic waste that remains in the water for weeks, unfortunately, acquire the smell of the food that turtles feed themselves with. This is because plastics are colonized by microorganisms, algae and small marine animals that change their smell, confusing not only our beloved turtles but also whales, dolphins and sea birds.

 

Professor Pfaller, researcher at the University of Gainsville - Florida, published in Current Biology the results of his research on 15 sea turtles which were captive bred and monitored with cameras: the animals reacted the same way when subjected to the smell of fish and shrimp, their usual diet, and when deceived with the smell of plastic objects left in the sea for a few weeks.

  

By 2050, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic

 

This helps explaining why plastic is so lethal to these ocean inhabitants. And not just for them, as it is estimated that by 2050, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic for the same reasons.

  

Plastic, once ingested, can lead to a sense of satiety, causing the turtle to stop eating; or even worse, plastic can cause intestinal blocks and suffocation. These dangers are joined by other problems related to waste abandoned in the sea in which turtles often become entangled, for instance we can think of fishing nets, which prevent them from diving to eat or vice-versa from re-emerging on the surface.

 

Let's adopt a turtle! 

 

The evolutionary adaptation can’t keep up with the speed of appearing of new plastic waste in the seas and this seriously endangers the existence of many marine species. We, in our small way, can’t accept it. Using less plastic in our daily routine is the first, small step to ensure a future for sea turtles and their wonderful habitat.

 

Another concrete act may be to adopt one, obviously we mean symbolically: Tartalove is the Legambiente project for the protection of Mediterranean turtles, and they work through research, monitoring and veterinary interventions. 10,000 specimens of Caretta Caretta die every year in Italian seas due to the ingestion of plastic, nautical incidents and accidental catches. But what sea would a sea without turtles be?

 

 

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