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Double treat on Turtle Walk

Heather-Lynn Evanson

Double treat on Turtle Walk

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FLASHES OF LIGHTNING illuminated an otherwise dark night.
The cacophony of civilization kept a constant background din.
And not far from the crowd on the South Coast, the critically endangered hawksbill turtle responded to nature’s call, retracing the steps of her mother and the mother before her.
Standing on the sidelines watching it all were die-hard nature lovers who braved thunder, lightning and showers to participate in the Barbados Museum & Historical Society’s Turtle Walk two Saturdays ago.
Organized by the Museum’s assistant curator in natural history, Kerron Hamblin, and joined by Barbados Sea Turtle Project volunteer Angela Picknell, the deliberately small group “patrolled” the South Coast boardwalk from 8 p.m. until just after midnight in the hopes of seeing female hawksbills.
The group came across the first nesting turtle around 9 p.m. as the watchers were making their way down the Richard Haynes Boardwalk.
Intent on laying her eggs in what Picknell described as a state of semi-consciousness, the hawksbill was oblivious to the watchers who gathered in a semicircle at her back.
Bad location
Picknell noted that the nest was in a bad location, too near the high water mark, and that the eggs would have to be removed to a safer location on the beach to give the hatchlings a better chance of survival.
About an hour later, telltale tracks leading up a different stretch of the beach indicated another hawksbill had come ashore.
And this one was now starting to dig her nest.
So flopping down on the boardwalk, the group prepared to wait as Hamblin said she could take up to an hour to dig a nest to her satisfaction.
But spooked by a group of noisy teenagers who passed too close to her chosen spot, the female abandoned her efforts and moved farther up the beach, before eventually completing her task.
This female, said one of two Sea Turtle Project volunteers who had, by now, joined Hamblin, Picknell and group, was a whopping 99.4 centimetres long and quite young in turtle years.
“Nature is unpredictable,” Hamblin said, responding to what the walkers could expect. Sometimes we will come across actual nesting turtles, sometimes we might come across hatchlings and they might be disoriented by light. But we haven’t come across any poaching on this stretch, thankfully.
“We want people to know you don’t have to use turtles as meat. You can go to a supermarket and get a chicken for a lot less and there isn’t that fine that is associated with chicken – $50 000 or three years in jail,” Hamblin said.
And, said Picknell, for those who were thinking about buying hawksbill meat, there was also the fact that it was highly toxic.
“There is an accumulation of mercury in it and with mercury poisoning, you will end up dead. Hawksbill meat is also known to have palitoxins, the most toxic marine poison, which can also kill a person in days.”
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