Thursday, May 6, 2010
Sea Turtles play a large role in Southern History
Some of these unique reptiles grow to be more than 6 feet long and they have long played a role in Southern history. Ancient Indians, for example, not only dined from time to time on the meat of the giant turtles, but also used them as inspiration for prehistoric art. This seems to indicate that sea turtles were of both dietary and ceremonial significance to early Native Americans all along the Southern coast.
Early European and African settlers weren't particularly interested in the ceremonial aspects of the sea turtles, but they did consider them a tasty treat from time to time. Diaries, letters and other accounts of life in the South during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries routinely mention turtle soup and even eating the eggs of the sea turtles.
Somehow, though, despite their popularity on the table, the sea turtles survived. In Georgia, for example, five different species still lay their eggs and swim in the waters around the coastal islands. All are now protected by both state and federal law. Their numbers diminished rapidly over the course of the 20th century, due to loss of habitat, increased pollution and accidental collisions with boats and fishing nets. They are today carefully watched all along the Southern coast.
The center also serves as a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility that helps sick or injured sea turtles until they can be returned to the wild. Visitors are allowed to visit the large pools and see the turtles in their various stages of recover. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/jekyllturtles.