Turtle nesting project – Turtles hatching
We were privileged to see turtles running towards the ocean three times in the last eight days during our stay in Ushongo. The first time was the day after our first patrol where a nest was cleaned of its eggshells and non-surviving turtles. Unfortunately there is always some sort of loss or sadness in a project where fragile turtle eggs are being moved.
However, five turtles did survive in that particular nest, these are properly the ones that would not make it in nature, but still deserve a chance in life, hopefully making it back in 20-30 years to lay eggs at the beach in Ushongo.
The dangers in a Turtle life
As you might know turtles are closing in on extension. Not only are they hunted by ocean predators, most turtles’ deaths are at the hands of humans, like it or not. Fishermen catch many turtles that swim into their fishing nets or bite the bait from their fishing lines.
Also, a lot of the turtles don’t make it off the beach and into the water because they are eaten before reaching the ocean.
The turtle cycle
Once the turtles leave the beach it takes approximately 20 to 30 years for them to reach adulthood and sexual maturity. At this point they will migrate to turtle breeding areas where they will eventually mate with each other.
Afterwards, the females will return to the same beach where she first ran out into the water because they always return to the same beach to lay their eggs.
Sometimes the beaches changed over the years or have completely disappeared due to erosion and this creates problems just like the ones on Maziwe. Sometimes cities are established where the beach used to be; there’s much that can happen in a span of 20 years.
This is often a problem on the really nice paradise beaches, because today there isn’t much stretch of beach left due to big developed resorts.
It doesn’t take a lot to keep the turtles away as they need 100% peace and quiet to lay their eggs. If it gets too disturbing due to all of the noise, lights, parasols, and beach chairs a resort places on the beach has, the turtles will leave the beach and drop the eggs in the water.
The good news is that due to this amazing project and the hard work of all the friends of Maziwe, the turtle eggs rescued and relocated from there are now hatching, and we got to see them!
Once safely in front of the village, after about 2-3 months, the nests start moving, the sand drops, and a few days later the excitement begins.
The first newly hatched turtle pops its head out and takes a few seconds to get the oxygen running through its body. To see this tiny head poking out for the very first time is utterly amazing to watch.
One by one they start moving around, which awakens the others in the nest. Once they all hatch, the small turtles lie in the sand, almost not moving, waiting to get ready to do the longest, most dangerous run of their lives.
They start running together down the beach. The more turtles there are in the nest the greater the chances at least a few of them will make it into the water. The ones that make it into the water will have a challenging life before them. Hopefully the females will make it back to the very same spot to lay their eggs in 20 years.
What can you do
If you ever get the chance to see a turtle hatching, I definitely recommend doing it. Everyone should see this. However, if you are not planning a holiday to a turtle destination there’s still a lot you can do.
We here at DIVE.in adopted a turtle nest, and NO it doesn’t mean we get to keep a turtle. We adopted a nest to support this non-government funded project in Ushongo.
These dedicated people are working hard for the turtles. They get up in the middle of the night to drive a boat out to a small sand island to pick eggs, sometimes in complete darkness.
They do this, not because they need to, but because they are trying to make their world a better place, preventing big decreases in marine life and especially the turtles coming to Maziwe.
Are you involved in or support any projects that improve the environment? Or have projects that could use some support from others? Please share in the comments below!
Last I would like to thank Wim and Kerstin from Kasa Divers for being behind this great project and for giving Katrine and I, an experience of a lifetime. And of cause a big thanks to Friends of Maziwe!