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There are seven species of sea turtles in the world, 3 of which are regularly found in the western Mediterranean: the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas).
Sea turtles are migratory. They roam the seas and oceans in search of feeding, breeding and spawning grounds. The diversity of habitats they cross only increases the risks and threats they face.
Since 2012, the Marineland Association has been running the ObsTortueMed conservation programme: Observation of Sea Turtles in the Mediterranean. Apart from monitoring populations at sea off the Alpes-Maritimes and Var, ObsTortueMed improves our understanding of the changing population structure and identifies the threats specific to a region particularly impacted by human activity.
Through its ObsTortueMed programme, the Marineland Association is involved with the French Herpetological Society and its national stranding network (R.T.M.M.F–Réseau Tortues Marines de Méditerranée Française), in the sea turtle monitoring programme coordinated by the French Office for Biodiversity.
ObsTortueMed has three components:
This component is an observation campaign based on the principle of "participatory or citizen science". Its objective is to establish the state of sea turtle populations off the coast of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. Between 45 and 140 observation reports have been compiled each year since 2012, documenting the presence, abundance and geographical distribution of the three species along our coasts. Two aerial flyover campaigns, conducted by the Association in 2015 and 2017, further enhanced the observation process.
The Marineland Association handles autopsies of dead turtles found off or on the coasts of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. This activity allows us to identify more precisely the causes of death and the threats to these protected species. As part of the scientific programme of the Sea Turtle Observatory of Metropolitan France and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (OTM), biological samples (in particular blood and skin) and an analysis of the digestive contents of sea turtles are systematically taken in order to enrich the databases and enhance scientific studies. These samples, as well as the data collected by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (C.R.F.S.) to evaluate the health status of animals in their care or during monitoring of sea turtles at sea, are also used in the monitoring programme of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) as well as the European INDICIT programme.
Located at the tip of the Cap d'Antibes, in the bay of Juan les Pins, on a site belonging to the Conservatoire du Littoral, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (Centre de Réhabilitation de la Faune Sauvage–C.R.F.S.) is a "hospital" dedicated to sea turtles that have been stranded or found in difficulty off the coasts of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. With its three individual 1000 litre tanks and 17 m3 main pool, its has the capacity to care for 5 sea turtles.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (C.R.F.S.) opened its doors in July 2017. It is managed and financed by the Marineland Association and benefits from Marineland's specialised personnel (staff and vets). Turtles in difficulty are welcomed and cared for there until their release back into their natural environment.