HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Helping hand for hatchlings
IT WAS AN ACT of killing that disgusted scores of people. In fact, some of the comments on social media sites were almost as vicious as the act that took the life of the female hawksbill turtle last week – the remains of which were left floating in the waters off Brownes Beach.
“These persons who are committing these acts (of poaching) and the persons who are supporting poaching through the purchase of meat or even through keeping quiet are in the minority of the population,” said deputy director of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, Carla Daniel.
“The majority of Barbadians feel very strongly about our turtle population and very strongly about protecting them. There are lots of people who see the value of turtles.”
And last Saturday, concerned Barbadians turned up at the Richard Haynes Boardwalk in Hastings, Christ Church. And they were joined by like-minded visitors.
This week, Heather-Lynn’s Habitat features the final Barbados Museum & Historical Society turtle walk.
A TURTLE’S life is really, really hard.
A somewhat bleak synopsis provided by Carla Daniel of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project.
Maybe that was why the group of locals and visitors, who turned out for the Barbados Museum & Historical Society’s final turtle walk, held in conjunction with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, cheered when every live hatchling was pulled from a 50-centimetre-deep nest on Saturday night and groaned when the few dead ones were brought out.
All in all, it was a fitting end to the museum’s turtle awareness programme because, despite not seeing an adult turtle, those who braved the threatening weather got the opportunity to cheer hundreds of hatchlings on their way into the water.
But then the reality hit home for some of the visitors who joined in the walk.
“One in one thousand?” asked a visiting couple who had joined the walkers as Daniel was excavating the nest.
“And how many eggs do they lay, and how often? Does she come back to check on the eggs?” they further asked, before noting that they had spent some of their vacation swimming with the critically endangered species and really enjoyed the experience.
The night began with Daniel informing those who gathered at Hastings Rocks for the four-hour patrol that it was illegal to have, kill or export anything relating to sea turtles, and every act of poaching and killing had the potential to further endanger the species.
And despite the legislative protection, she said the marine species still faced a number of problems.
“There is the problem of the loss of nesting habitat. Beaches are getting narrower. Some of them are disappearing so turtles are finding it more and more difficult to find places to lay their eggs.
Hatchlings are having problems with disorientation.
“One of the other problems that we often have is bonfires. And nobody ever really thinks about them but bonfires are bad because you can put your fire right on top of a nest and then you have hard-boiled turtle eggs.
“The other thing is that it is a really bright light so if there are any nests close by, and the hatchlings come out, they will go straight to the fire and they can actually walk into the fire. And the bright light can deter females that want to come up to nest,” she said.
“So a turtle’s life is really, really hard,” Daniel stressed.
And, just when it looked like the walkers were about to end their night without being treated to the sight of a turtle, news reached the walkers that other volunteers with the project had discovered a nest of hatchlings.
Moments later, reports also came back that a number of hatchlings were emerging from a nest near Tapas.
“This is a really good nest,” said Daniel as she excavated that one.
There were 158 shells of which about ten were undeveloped eggs and fewer than that were dead in the nest which was laid on July 1.
Walkers formed a light-blocking semi-circle as the turtles were tipped out of their buckets and onto the sand to begin their transatlantic journey.