Recently, I had the honor of visiting White Sands Island at Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia, where they were running a turtle conservation program.
Sometime around August, female turtles would come up to the island to dig a hole and lay their eggs. They then return to the ocean and never come back to check on the eggs again. These eggs and subsequently, the hatchlings, are left vulnerable. Here is where we can come in!
The staff at White Sands Island are always on the lookout for indications of a nest, such as the tracks left by a female turtle on the beach. They then help to locate the eggs.
The area where the nest is found is fenced up to protect the eggs until they are ready to hatch.
The eggs are estimated to hatch about 2 months after. Once hatched, the baby turtles are transferred to pails/tanks where they are kept up till their release date.
When I was at the island, they were in the process of building a gorgeous new sanctuary with an large tank to house the baby turtles.
After keeping the baby turtles for a specified period of time as discussed with Banyan Tree Turtle Conservation, they are ready to be released into their new home in the sea.
We each get a bowl with a baby turtle in it to release, avoiding holding them in our hands. This is because the chemicals or natural oils on human skin might interfere with the baby turtle’s natural process of imprinting to their natal beach. Imprinting is a crucial part of the turtle’s life as years later, it guides them to return to their natal beach to nest and reproduce. We also release them on the sand and let them crawl down to mimic nature’s process as closely as we can.
It takes them quite a while to make their way down into the water as they are so tiny. The grains of sand look so big on these babies!
Even when they reach the shore, they get washed around so easily by the waves and the current as they attempt to get out into the waters.
I look at these fragile creatures fighting hard against the waves to get out into the sea and it inspires me how awesome and strong nature’s children can be. It breaks my heart that the survival rate of turtles are so low and most will not be able to make it to adulthood…Not only do turtles face dangers from predators, they also face endangerment from humankind’s activities.
But I am relieved that White Sands Island has contributed in giving them their best chance at survival by protecting the eggs and the new hatchlings until they are ready to be released back into the wild.
~All the best to the baby turtles, and bon voyage~