Turtles Cause Airport Chaos! | Fizzics Education

Turtles Cause Airport Chaos!

Turtles Cause Airport Chaos!

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  • terrapins-at-jfk-airport
  • (photo from the New York Port Authority)

This is my favourite news story of the week. Earlier this week I wrote about flight delays caused by Volcanic Ash closing airspace above South America, New Zealand and Australia. This is much more fun – flights were delayed at JFK Airport in New York City by Diamondback Terrapin Turtles who had found their way onto the runway.

There is a large population of Terrapin Turtles living in the marshes near JFK Airport, and every year they migrate to nearby sandy areas in Jamaica Bay to lay their eggs – and there just happens to be a runway in the way. A runway at a very, very busy airport. The runway was closed for a few hours while biologists worked to relocate the turtles to safety.

This population is declining because the eggs they lay are often snatched up by racoons, leaving very few youngsters. Other issues such as pollution from the NY sewer system are also causing the population to decline. Conservation biologists closely monitor populations such as these because they provide a good indicator of the health of the wetland that they live in.

This is probably going to happen several times over the next month or so as the rest of the population seeks to lay their eggs. There have been several plans drawn up that may encourage the turtles to avoid the runway in future – but this has been occurring since the 1940s, and I seriously doubt that it will be easy to teach these old turtles new tricks.

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