Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Caribbean Facts About Sea Turtles - Protect Them!

Everyone should do it. Wander down a dark beach at midnight or later that is, preferably in the pitch black and definitely without flashlight or camera. A sliver of moonlight on a silvery sea can help but this is no romantic interlude, not for the voyeur at any rate. It is though a heartrending experience with something of the primeval about it, and not to be forgotten in a hurry, to be a privileged witness to the egg laying ritual of the giant leatherback turtle, the largest living marine reptile and known to have existed for 100 million years. Children in particular are wide eyed in amazement, most adults too in truth. It really is that extraordinary to see these great ocean wanderers, leviathans of the deep as big as coffee tables, hauling themselves from the surf on some remote shoreline at dead of night. The males are entirely pelagic with the females only coming ashore to lay eggs after six years of age.

Grande Riviere in North Trinidad is the second most important nesting ground in the world after the beaches of French Guyana, and it’s easy to see why in the period from March to August when 300 have been known to lumber up the beach on a single evening close to the Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel which is a prime observation post. Dozens of people are bussed in nightly from Port Of Spain three hours away now, it’s that much of a spectacle. It’s strenuous work over 1.5 hours for the poor beast, with a three feet deep hole excavated with its hind flippers initially, then 60-80 eggs deposited in a trance-like state when the inert beast can actually be stroked without distraction. It actually appears to be weeping when a viscous film develops over the eyes but it’s merely a protective measure against sand which is flung around violently in the covering over process, or the removal of excess salt.

The eggs, and the turtles themselves, are highly vulnerable of course - they’re persecuted by egg stealers like the “Cobo” vultures, packs of wild dogs, and not least, dumb humans who also slaughter turtles for meat despite widespread educational and awareness programmes. Green turtles and the Hawksbill suffer the same fate. Things have changed in recent years but it’s still a problem on the more inaccessible north coast beaches like Madamas further west and in other countries like Dominica and Grenadines outposts.

Sterling work is undertaken in St.Kitts by the sea Turtle Monitoring Network coordinated by Kimberley Clark who also arranges constant clean up campaigns on sensitive beaches like Cayon and Keys, favoured grounds of all three species. In Carriacou in the southern Grenadines the Kido Ecological Research Station run by Marina Fastigi and Dario Sandrini actually pays fishermen for turtles caught accidentally, or otherwise, in their nets before tagging and release. The Rosti project (Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative) in eastern Dominica is another laudable effort to preserve these remarkable creatures and the soon to be opened Rosalie Bay Nature Resort, like Mt.Plaisir, has also set up hatchling nurseries to improve baby turtles’ chances of making it back to the sea. For turtles to survive and flourish in the Caribbean spreading the word is the key, so everyone - do your bit quickly before 100 million years of evolution disappears.


  1. I have been to Trinidad and seen the turtles. It is an amazing experience that i will never forget!!


    Please take a look at the video "the legal slaughter of endangered sea turtles in trinidad"


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