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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leatherback Sea Turtle nesting

Lying in my hammock, my awareness fluctuates between a tight focus on my reading to a wide general awareness of the surrounding environment. I find my current read totally absorbing, eyes on electronic pages for long intervals, but occasionally I must look up, if only to take a swipe of rum. Sipping slowly I notice a bird nesting in a palm tree only a few feet away, and I notice a female turtle just 3 meters from shore. The female turtle has been ghosting the coast line all day. After a moment’s thought I realize she will come ashore tonight and nest.
At sunset I move all the beach lounges back and remove any other possible obstacle that could impede the female turtle. With the beach cleared I return to my hammock for more literature and drink.
At about 1 AM the turtle comes ashore. She had waited for all lights to be turned off and for a lonely quiet to settle on the sandy beach, for now, only the night watchman walks the beach. Slowly and carefully she makes her way up the sandy incline, she waddles like a tortoise with her body clear of the ground. With a clear path and clear instincts she picks a spot to dig. She is a fully mature Leatherback sea turtle over a meter in length, this is not her first nesting, she opens a circular area the diameter of her body and 15 centimeters deep, then excavates a deep pit near one side. All this takes 20 or so minutes, now she is ready to lay her eggs. Over the next 20 minutes she lays more than a hundred eggs, I try to count the eggs but lose track at seventy. At first the eggs come fast and in bunches of a half dozen or more, the egg production slows, eventually ending, it is obvious this has exhausted her. She rest for several minutes then begins to shovel sand over her nest. Using her great fins she scoops and covers, moving slightly forward as she continues covering the nest. Once complete it appears that the nest is several feet from its actual location, we know this because we had marked the nest location while she was laying the eggs. Satisfied with her night’s work she returns to the sea.
     We lined the nest with rocks for protection from drunken tourist. The turtle had hidden the nest from her natural predators.

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