Island Turtles

Girl-friday offers a baby turtle reserve on her island -Updated January 2015

Pics of this tale still need to be added
The turtle-breeding season has begun again and my island team are delighted to help protect the eggs.friday-baby-turtle1-sm
Our tiny hatchery had been without occupants since late May, so it’s good to have new residents again.

We’ve had three green turtle visits during a 14-day period, with 301 eggs so far, offering a promising season. Our first big mama came to visit during the night of December 17 and I spotted her first tracks at the western end of my beach. I could see that she’d changed her mind, returning to the sea, not finding the area suitable. Fortunately she came back up at the opposite end near some mucuna vines, and created her nest right under our ancient Butung tree.

This end of the beach has rocks closer to the shore and isn’t ideal for nests. Spring tides between December and February can pound fragile eggs to pieces. Only one narrow place exists here between rocks and this huge tree and it was in this small space that this mama laid her eggs.

However no matter where turtles lay their eggs on my beach, the likelihood of them escaping the scent of a monitor lizard is rare.  Veronica and Macring set off with three nito grass plates and began digging in the wrong place, as they hadn’t read the turtles movements from her tracks. Once I explained the tracks to them, they had no difficulty finding the eggs five meters away, as there were no decoy nests. With three plates full, Edgar joined us with another plate and we transferred all 107 eggs into our hatchery.

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As this time of year is cooler, I predict this hatch to be between February 24th and 28th.  With females laying approximately 100 eggs in each clutch every 10 to 28 days and up to seven times in one year, this mother will probably visit us a few more times during this season. Exactly ten days later on December 27th, we had our second visit. She could have been the same turtle that lay earlier, or another mama of similar size.

It was Edgar, talking his pre-dawn morning stroll, who luckily not only spotted her tracks, but also heard this turtle digging nearby. His first thoughts were of our new island dogs bothering her, so he woke me. Having no experience of a turtle visit, let alone training to leave one alone, I quickly grabbed Tipi and roughly dropped her into a closable room. I woke up my two Italian friends Manuela and Tarcisco, staying over Christmas, to share the experience.

None of us could grab Mitzi, our fearless and boisterous little ball of fluff, however big mama had finished her duty and startled by our approach, headed down towards the water. As she slide off into the sea Mitzi watched mesmerised, amazed she’s seen something so big and different in her island territory. Manuela, Tarcisco and I, likewise watched in awe.

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When she’d fully disappeared we turned our backs to the sea and explored her nesting site, which was very different to the one ten days before. This nest was in high ground of darker sand and had several decoy holes in prickly vegetation and it could take a lot of time to locate these eggs.

Asking Rhona to work in the garden nearby and to regularly check for the presence of a monitor lizard was a good idea. Around 9am a monitor had picked up the scent and Rhona caught the fellow digging, saving us all that hard work. With a hole already started, it was easy for Rhona and Anne to dug down a little deeper and uncover the clutch.

Shortly after Manuela and Tarcisco returned all 104 eggs (looking like they had been covered in brown breadcrumbs), were safely tucked into our enclosure to incubate for approximately 73 days. Being ten days after batch number ONE, this clutch should hatch between March 4th -8th.  Later that same morning I noticed that this second turtle visit had also come up on the eastern end of the beach and finding compacted corals and tree roots, she’d returned to the sea, then come up again, fifty meters away.

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friends baby turtle releas

On January 2nd, just five days later, Edgar noticed our third tracks near the western end of our beach. All three visits had been similar sized turtles and I assume it is just two turtles. I studied the tracks and felt she also hadn’t liked the area and left, and hoped she’d done the same as the two visits before.

Sure enough, walking down to the opposite end of the beach I spotted the tracks. This turtle had nested only 20 feet from nest number ONE, and like before, made no decoys. Though her hole was deep, it was easy for Rhona and Catherine, (staying over New Year) to find and dig up her eggs. With squeals of delight Catherine carefully transferred all 97 eggs into hole number THREE of our hatchery.

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Life on the island offers magical moments everywhere I look and I never tire or take for granted my treasured lifestyle.

Sharing some of this magic with visitors, especially if it’s a turtle visit or babies hatching, adds deeper memories to an already precious vacation.
Needles to say Manuela, Tarcisio and Catherine found it difficult to leave the island.

 

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