BIG PINE KEY -- A live-streaming webcam positioned on a local beach has recorded the hatching of about 100 baby loggerhead sea turtles.
The webcam, with recorded video at www.fla-keys.com/turtlecam, has been focused on the nest in the Lower Keys for almost two weeks.
On the evening of Friday, July 25, the 3-inch-long babies erupted from a hole, came out en masse and headed to the Atlantic Ocean under dim moonlight.
The camera uses infrared lighting so hatchlings won't be confused by artificial light and will go to sea -- guided by moonlight reflecting on the water -- instead of pushing further onto land.
"This webcam is high-definition, the first time ever used [to record a turtle hatch] and also an infrared IR-emitting light that is so important because it does not disturb any of the activities of the turtle trying to find the ambient light of the moon," said Harry Appel, president of the Keys-based Save-a-Turtle organization, who helped to coordinate the webcam in partnership with the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
"It's so important here in the Keys to protect these nests and these turtles," Appel said. "They've been around for millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of years."
Loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley sea turtles nest on beaches in the Keys and other parts of Florida, and inhabit Florida and Keys waters. All five species are considered either threatened or endangered.
The webcam was approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.