Monday, 18 August 2014

Run Turtle Run!

Today there is a little more green in the ocean; green turtle that is.

One of our Directors is very involved with the local turtle watch and told me the nest outside Colobus Conservation was almost ready to hatch. 11 days had passed and I was loosing hope that I was going to actually see this amazing natural event; as I leave Kenya in one week. Apparently they were late due to the cold weather and high tides

Well this morning I got the call saying there was disturbance at the nest and that they expected them out any time soon. Usually they hatch at night to increase chances of safely making it to the ocean; but the lateness meant it could happen during the day. On putting the phone down I grabbed my camera and ran for the beach filled with excitement. Thankfully today I was finally going to witness the green turtle hatchlings breaking out of their nest and running for the ocean.

When we got there we saw the marked nest and the path to the ocean had been cleared to give the hatchlings the best possible chance. They have to be careful when marking the nests as local people can dig them out and eat or sell them to tourists. We then waited around for about 45 minutes before we started to see some movement.

The nest ready for action

Everyone was poised for turtles

The first one popped out and then stopped as if to adjust its sight and get its bearings. Then the little guy just ran as fast as a little turtle covered in sand can. All of a sudden another one came out, then another and another and another. By this time the nest was uncovered and tens of green turtle hatchlings were pouring out of this hole. They were all darting for the ocean, but some seemed to take a slightly longer route than others.

The first Green Turtles coming out the sand and making for the ocean

Then a couple more

Then even more

Then the nest just exploded with baby turtles

This guy stopped on reaching the surface, then ran like the wind

There were just so many
Almost at the water little guy

They had a long way to go in baby turtle terms

The first ones started to reach the water (about 20 meters away) within minutes and they were initially pushed back up the beach by the waves. Luckily the wave then swept them out into the big blue ocean, and with just one final bobble on the top they disappeared out of sight forever.

They were moving fast
Caught this guy mid flight

Getting closer, no looking back now

Starting to hit the water

Only to be pushed back by the waves

Guarding them till they hit the water

Shows just how small they are

This little guy waved goodbye to me before disappering

Then they were just shadows

Obviously all this commotion did not go unnoticed and before we knew it passer bys (including Masai) were upon us taking photos. With the increased footfall I started to get worried not only might some of the turtles be trampled on, but they would be scared and not make it to the ocean. Gladly this did not happen, and before we knew it this large beach that just moments earlier had been filled with new life and excitement returned to a quiet, blank surface where you wouldn’t even know this event had occurred.

Everyone wanted to see the turtles start their lives

Important to get a selfie with the turtles

Within a few short minutes tracks was all that was left
OMG did we really just witness that

On returning to the nest Juma (a trained local turtle expert) excavated it to check none of the turtles were trapped. The nest was at least 50cm deep and he had been counting the turtles as they had appeared with the final numbers being 135 survived and 17 died in the nest; some due to crabs others just didn’t hatch. So out of 157 eggs it was a very successful hatching. Apparently only a handful will make it to adulthood as usually a lot will be killed on the way to the ocean (crabs, birds, ants), and through their first year by fish etc. The human factor and lateness of the nest meant all of the emerging hatchlings successfully made it to the water; they are on their own from there.

The successfully hatched shells on the left, dead ones on the right

17 did not make it out the nest

It was without doubt a memorable moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

All that was left to do was wonder what they are getting up to under the big blue ocean

Read more about Green Turtles here – http://bit.ly/YnlYQX

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