We have an active sea turtle nesting area on Long Caye, where sea turtles (usually Loggerhead, but also Hawksbill) dig nests and lay their eggs each year on our beach. When we notice a new nest (they come ashore at night only) we stake it off to protect it and await the hatch, which typically takes 90 days of incubation. Because many turtles lay their eggs during our off season, many of the nests go unnoticed and we only find out about them when a hatch occurs. Most baby turtles will immediately make it to the sea and swim away, but there are always several who become lost and we find them in the morning.
Baby turtles are highly sought after by predators and their survival rate is very low: only one in a thousand will survive to adulthood. Because of this high mortality rate, efforts to protect sea turtles have mostly focused on trying to protect baby turtles. A new program has recently tried tracking newly hatched sea turtles by using a micro radio transmitter in order to find out more about their habits during their first few days at sea, when the greatest number succumb to predators. This New York Times article on sea turtles explains what researchers are learning.
Ken, the Wildlife Conservation Society manager of Middle Caye, an island 2.5 miles from ours, recently told us that they have been tagging turtles at Glover’s Reef with the new device. One of the adult turtles they tagged was picked up in Panama, so they are traveling all the way down the Central American coast from our island! Middle Caye also has had a Green Turtle nesting on their island this winter, a very rare occurrence.
The pictures below are of a hatch of Hawksbill turtles just a few weeks ago on our island. There are five more nests we know about between our cabanas #4, 5 and 6, so there will be several more hatches soon.