Expert at UAB says oil spill endangers fight to save turtle

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – A biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could destroy years of conservation efforts to save a species of turtle in Alabama.

"Any community of organisms in the path of that spreading oil slick is in danger, and that is especially the case for a species like the Diamondback Terrapin turtle that is teetering on the brink of extinction in Alabama," says Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., the UAB biologist leading efforts to save the terrapin.

Conservation work to save the turtle began in 2006 by a UAB team. UAB created a turtle hatchery and began a head-start program on its campus.

The team was planning a release for a large number of the terrapin, but the unsure threat of the oil spill has caused them to delay.

"At this point, it is too difficult to predict the exact outcome of the spill," Wibbels says. "But pending the stoppage of the oil slick before it reaches the coastline, the potential outcomes are all certainly negative as they relate to the future health of the Cedar Point Marsh, the terrapin population and other species."