Yesterday afternoon, as we were all out for a beach cleanup, we spotted Pablo running up the beach. “Babies!”, he called out as he got closer. The first lot of hatchlings for the season had just started to emerge out of their nest. We headed for the hatchery where two rather sleepy baby leatherback turtles had crawled out of their nest and a third one was poking its head out of the sand. It wasn’t until later at night, however, that the full nest started to emerge. At around 18:30, 24 baby turtles were busy flapping their flippers around. We all gathered at the hatchery and took turns helping out, weighing and measuring a subsample of 15 of the 24 hatchlings before it was time to release them all on the beach and watch them head for sea. Their jerky movements made them look like wound-up toys!
A couple of hours later a second, much larger, nest emerged and Alan, Janet and Ida, who were on hatchery duty, processed another 63 baby turtles. Just when we thought things had calmed down, three turtles poked their heads out of a third nest whilst Carol was on the early morning shift. But as a result of the hot daytime sun, the hatchlings in the third nest stopped emerging, instead waiting for cooler nighttime temperatures. We processed and released the three that had already emerged and watched them struggle to the sea (the process of letting them crawl over the beach is essential for imprinting the beach’s location into their brains). “It makes all the hard work worthwhile,” exclaimed Carol.
In the afternoon Magali excavated the two nests that had fully hatched. There were a couple of stragglers at the bottom that were released and all the hatched and unhatched eggs were removed and examined individually and their stage of development recorded. Then all were buried deep in the sand to avoid attracting predators.
Now we are all waiting for the third nest to fully emerge.