The Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (STAR) Network is a group of U.S. Virgin Islands wildlife professionals and volunteers who work together to respond to sea turtles in trouble. Members include staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Coral World, the St. Croix Environmental Association, the St. Croix Animal Shelter and many other volunteers.
In addition to helping sick, injured and disoriented turtles, STAR collects valuable information that allows for a better understanding of threats facing sea turtles and better protection of these endangered animals. The organization provides guidelines to the V.I. community on what to do when people encounter turtle hatchlings.
Baby sea turtles face many obstacles when first leaving their nests, such as hungry birds, mongoose, cats and fire ants. Sometimes these hatchlings may not even make it into the ocean because of artificial lighting near beaches. Sea turtles use the reflection of moonlight and starlight off the ocean to guide themselves to the sea but can become confused by bright lights from beach front homes, restaurants and street lights. Theses bright lights often cause hatchlings to become disoriented as they emerge from their nest. Hatchlings can end up far from the beach, crushed in the road, eaten by predators or killed by sun exposure.
What should people do if they encounter a hatchling sea turtle?
• Do not interfere with their crawl to the sea.
• If the hatchling appears disoriented by beachfront lighting, place yourself between the hatchlings and the light source, then ask for the lights to be turned off.
• Never photograph hatchlings.
• If you find hatchlings wandering in the daylight, place moist sand in a dry container, shade it, place the hatchling inside and call STAR (340-690-0474). All sea turtles are designated as either threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and under the U.S. Virgin Islands Endangered and Indigenous Species Act of 1990. Violations can result in up to one year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
Please report any violations or stranded, injured, trapped, disoriented or dead turtles to: STAR (Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue) at 690-0474 or the V.I. Police Department at 911.