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Places | Seychelles| Turtle Hatchling Release

Turtle Hatchling Release

In Mahe, Seychelles we had the opportunity to release a nest of Hawksbill turtle hatchlings. Elke, who works for the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), had saved the hatching eggs from digging dogs. The MCSS (http://www.mcss.sc) monitors the beaches in the south of Mahe, checking the numbers of nests and counting the number hatched.

By Casper

In Mahe, Seychelles on 18th of April we had arranged to be picked up at the yacht club by Elke, who is a turtle expert, to go out to set free some turtle hatchlings and monitor the nests on some beaches. We left at 8:20. It was a half an hour ride along the coast to the place where we would set free the hatchlings. We were in the car with Elke and my mom, my dad, my brother, and myself. When we went into the car the hatchlings had already hatched. They were all sitting on my lap in a bucket with a cloth over it. On the way to the beach where they would be set free she told us a lot about turtles. These turtles were Hawksbill turtles. She talked about how many eggs there are in one nest and how many nests they have on one beach. Half an hour later we arrived at the first beach and we walked along the beach to where there was a good spot. A good spot is where there aren’t any footprints where the hatchlings can fall into and where there isn’t too much surf. We chose a spot at the end of the beach where it was least “rough”. In this batch of hatchlings that we were going to set free there were 147 hatchlings ready to go. We drew two lines to the water which were the edges of the runway beyond where no footprints were allowed to be made. We were all putting handfuls of five turtles at the beginning of the runway so that they could scramble down to the beach. Elke said that it is very important to let them do that because it is a part of getting to know where to go back to lay eggs. This is called imprinting. Some of the hatchlings immediately went scrambling down the beach to the water while some of them still had to “wake up” to go down the beach. Most of the hatchlings went to the left and off the runway into the footprints, probably because the wind comes from that direction and they can smell the sea from that direction. While all the hatchlings were scrambling down the beach surprisingly none of them got picked up and carried away by birds and crabs, not even one. We were also taking lots of pictures of them. Only one out of the 147 didn’t make it because it died before it even started to walk which looked very sad. Even though this was the calmest place of the beach the waves were still crashing down on the sand and it looked strange that all these small turtles just clambered into the waves and disappeared into the surf. After all the hatchlings were gone we went back to the car and drove off to the second beach where Elke told us that only one in 10.000 turtle eggs survive to get to 40 years when they can lay eggs. Also that dogs dig up the nests sometimes and eat the eggs. The crabs also are a danger to them. In the water the hatchlings try to find a patch of seaweed where they can hide from the fish and the seabirds that like to eat them. At the second beach we patrolled the beach with Elke to inspect one of the nests. Once we got to the nest Elke told us that this nest hatched yesterday. We dug it up to see how many hatched eggs there were and how many undeveloped eggs there were. When we finished digging up the nest we counted 174 empty eggs, two undeveloped eggs and two hatched turtles which got stuck in the roots, one of which was still alive so we took it to the edge of the beach and let it scramble down to the water. After that we drove a short way to the next beach where Elke found a new nest from a mother turtle which laid her eggs very late in the season. She marked that nest with a piece of coral hanging from a blue string above the nest. Most of the nests are in the bushes far up the beach while some of the younger and more inexperienced turtles lay their eggs in the middle of the beach. When we were done there we took one last ride to the last beach that we would go to that day which was a very long beach with very big waves crashing down on the shore. While my parents and Elke went to patrol the beach Alex and I went to play in the humongous waves, which was very fun. After 20 minutes we left the beach in Elke’s pick-up-truck. Alex and I were allowed to sit in the back since we were wet. We stopped by a shop to get something to drink when I realized that I had forgotten my shoes! So we went back to the beach to get my shoes. Luckily they were still there. That was the end of the morning that spent with Elke and the turtles and we drove back to the yacht club and thanked Elke for her time and said goodbye.

By Alex

On 18 April 2005 in the Seychelles island of Mahé I went to help free some turtle hatchlings!
This was my experience:
Early in the morning my mom woke me up because we where going to a turtle nesting beach with a nice lady called Elke who had some baby turtles that she had saved from dogs. Elke works to help turtles.
Elke picked us up in a pickup truck and I sat in the front seat, mom, dad, and Casper in the back seat. It was a nice ride because we hadn’t yet seen much of the island. I saw the bucket of turtles that Casper was holding. The hatchlings where so small. When we got there we walked up the beach where there were huge swells pounding on the beach. Elke made a track where no footsteps where allowed, because when the turtles get stuck in some footprints they will get tired trying to get out. Then we set them free in batches of five. We put them ten meters up the beach because otherwise they won’t know where to come to lay there eggs. This is called imprinting and its part of their growing up steps. So when they where crawling down the beach they went out of the track and did get stuck in some footprints. I was rushing back and forth helping them out of the footprints. When a lot of the hatchlings where already in the water trying to get through the huge swells I went into the water to look at how the turtles were progressing. I found that when a big wave comes they dive down and get pushed out to the open sea. All the turtles made it in the water except 1 of the 147 who died unfortunately. Then we went to another beach where Elke had to check some nests for dips. A dip means the eggs in that nest have hatched. She found one, so she went to dig it up to see if it really was a nest that had hatched. She dug up all the eggs and she found one dead and one live turtle hatching. I put the live one on the beach and it made it to the water. We counted the eggs and there were a 174 eggs and 171 of them went out of the nest and hopefully into the sea. Then she filled out a form and told us that some never hatch and when you open the egg you find gray embryos or white embryos . Black embryos are turtles that are already female or male so that means that you can move the eggs if there’s a problem with the nest. She also told us only 1 in 10.000! eggs will be become a turtle of egg laying size, and that is 40 years! Then we went to the next beach where she looked along as well and didn’t find anything except for a new nest and told us something surprising. She showed us a nest that was layed 20 meters up the beach through some bushes and across a road! Then we went to the fourth beach, a very long one so Casper and I went to play in the big waves for 15 minutes. Then mom dad and Elke came back and we drove back to Victoria. About halfway there we saw this funny dog in the back of a truck. It was funny because every time it saw a car pass it would stare at it and go woof woof! And it kept on turning around and go woof! But then we passed it and I didn't see it again. Then we got to the yacht club, thanked Elke very very much and said goodbye. We got into the dinghy, drove back to the boat and said that was amazing!



 
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