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Sea Turtle and Hatching Baby Turtles Watch

Posted by CDS Real Estate on December 6, 2016
| 3 Comments

We were looking forward to see the (elusive) sea turtles this year…

For months we were looking forward to see one of the Leatherback Turtles or a Green Turtle. But with no results. One day on the beach we discovered a dog frantically digging in the sand and we were sure it was not a crab it was hunting. The next day we knew what it was looking for. Small white leather-like paper shells were scattered on that spot. Covered in jelly. Some already dried out and turned into something that feels like parchment. This evidently told us, the mother Turtles were on this beach before. Will be see one this year? And if we see one, what are things we are allowed to do? What are the things we really mus NOT do? When is the best season to come to Tobago to see a sea turtle?

First of all: Which sea turtles comes to Tobago shores?

The Leatherback Turtle (Latin name: Dermochelys coriacea)

These ancient animals have been swimming the world’s oceans for over million years! Leatherbacks do not have a bony shell. They get their name from the dark rubbery flexible shell which is marked by seven ridges and allows them to withstand the pressure of diving up to 4,000 feet / 1219.2 Meters (m) below the surface of the sea.

The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all living turtles!

Size, Weight & Habitat

  • Up to 2000 lbs / 900+ kilo
  • 10 Feet / 3 meters in length. Think of a small car!
  • Average size: 5-7 feet  / 1 – 2 meters
  • Average weight: 1000 lbs  / 450 kilo
  • They can be found in all the world’s oceans

Leatherbacks in Trinidad & Tobago

The number one species nesting in Trinidad in Tobago are the Leatherback Turtles. This important nesting population is the third largest in the world. Leatherbacks come from as far as Africa, Canada and the UK to nest on our beaches. The most important nesting sites in Trinidad are Matura Bay, Fishing Pond, and Grande Riviere and Turtle Beach in Tobago.

Turtle Nesting Grounds in the World Trinidad and Tobago is the 3rd Largest

Turtle Nesting Grounds in the World. The red spots are the largest ones including T&T.

Endangered Species

Because of their huge size, a fully grown leatherbacks only natural predators are sharks, killer whales and humans. Their greatest threat worldwide is the commercial fishing industry, especially the practices of long lining and drift netting. Because sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and when they come up to breathe they might get entangled in fishing gear, trapped underwater they will eventually drown. Poaching of nesting females during the nesting season is a second huge threat to this critically endangered species. Because of all this, their numbers are getting smaller and smaller. Thus they are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

The third enemy to all sea creatures including sea turtles is ocean pollution: oil spilling, chemical dumping and garbage on the beach and water. Plastic bags are sometimes being mistaken as their favorite meal: the jellyfish. And this could mean their last supper.

Thus keep ALL beaches clean and when on sea, don’t litter!

What has Trinidad & Tobago done for the Turtles so far?

We have an organization called: Save Our Sea Turtles (SOS for short). Their effort to do regular beach patrol, together with ongoing education and awareness campaigns, has helped to reduced the incidence of poaching that was once clearly at Turtle Beach dramatically. However many rural beaches are not being monitored and poaching during the nesting season remains a huge threat to all the species. If you see something happening on the beach, please tell the authorities asap.

Read more about the Hawkbill Turtle and the Green Turtle here soon.

Here Some Turtle Friendly Tips

Turtles will not likely come onto the beach before nesting if they see lights and or activity. It means, no fire, no flashlights, cellphone lights etc. Be quiet and sit still on beaches during the nesting season and you are much more likely to see a turtle to nest!
  • Don’t use flashlights, campfires, cameras and cellphones while on nesting beaches at night!
  • Don’t smoke while there are turtles on the beach.
  • Don’t litter!
  • Don’t drive on nesting beaches! You might crush entire clutches of eggs beneath the sand.
  • Don’t stake umbrellas or other objects on nesting beaches, nests will not always be obvious.
  • Building sand castles? Keep it below the high water mark to avoid accidentally disturbing or destroying any eggs.
  • Control dogs on the beach – prevent digging up nests and eat eggs and hatchlings! Like  we saw written in the intro…
  • Don’t touch, ride or harass nesting turtles or hatchlings!
Sea turtle eggs

Photo: Hakcipta Mohamed – Wikipedia.

When you see a sea turtle laying – Guidelines

Be patient, an entire nesting process can take up to 2 hours and sometimes longer. As soon as a turtle has been sighted, slowly retreat to a distance of 20m (60 ft) that is about 60 to 70 steps.

When the turtle has stopped digging, the SOS Turtle Patrol, hotel security or a knowledgeable guide will determine if the laying process has begun by approaching the turtle cautiously from behind (No Flashlights).

During the actual laying process, SOS patrol volunteers may measure and tag the turtle and occasionally, if the situation permits, small groups may be led closer to briefly see the eggs.

BE SURE TO STAY BEHIND THE TURTLE AT ALL TIMES!

Flashlights of your Cameras

All flashlights being used on turtle nesting beaches during nesting season should be equipped with a red L.E.D bulbs or filters.

Overall flashlight use should be kept to a bare minimum. Flashlights may be used from behind the turtle to

  • highlight the laying process
  • aid in the collection of research data by qualified patrol volunteers
  • In case of emergency
  • Never shine a flashlight near the turtle’s face or directly at hatchlings!

Photography

Flash photography of nesting turtles is a controversial issue. In some places it is harassment and is illegal.  Out of respect for the nesting turtles and hatchlings, SOS asks that there be no flash photography as it can blind and disorient turtles and complicates their return to the sea. Buy a postcard instead! Infrared / low-light video recording is okay.

Leatherback Babies crawling to the sea

Leatherback Babies crawling to the sea. Source: Wikipedia

Hatchlings

Be VERY careful where you put your feet when there are hatchlings on the beach as they are difficult to see at night and can be easily crushed!

Do not touch or disturb emerging hatchlings, as they must orient themselves to their environment by crossing the beach; NEVER place hatchlings directly into the sea.

As far as possible, remove any objects (sandcastles, debris etc.) or predators (dogs etc.) and turn off or block any light sources that may complicate the hatchlings journey to the sea.

Hatchling during the day – What to do?

If you should ever come across hatchlings or adult turtles emerging during the day or hatchlings and or adult turtles that are clearly disoriented by artificial lighting at night OR hatchlings / adult turtles that appear to be in any other kind of extraordinary difficulty, trapped in a net for example, immediately alert SOS directly or contact us as soon as possible. We want to make sure our future generation is able to enjoy this wondrous moments too!

Best time to come to Tobago for sea turtles

Between March and May is the best season to come an see mother sea turtles on the beach to lay eggs. From May to June it is most likely to see a nest hatching and seeing hatchlings finding their way to the beach. Although this is not a guarantee to see them during your stay, you will have the best chance then. Always contact SOS directly or via us to inform about Turtle watching.

3 thoughts on “Sea Turtle and Hatching Baby Turtles Watch

  • Yvonne
    on December 8, 2016

    Hello blogger ! I read your content everyday and i must say you have high quality articles here.

  • Mariel
    on December 10, 2016

    I see interesting articles about Tobago here. Thanks a lot!

  • Tina Ward
    on December 13, 2016

    Hello! I visit your website regular and I LOVE the sea turtle article. Thanks a lot!

Comments are closed.