The sea turtle conservation program was the main reason I went to work at TRACC. I absolutely love turtles and really wanted to help where I could.
There are 7 different species of sea turtles, and almost all of them are in jeopardy right now.
Their numbers are going down rapidly, and we have to act fast before it’s too late.
What are the threats?
Humans have created a lot of problems for the turtle population. Our actions have caused a big decline in the amount of turtles reaching adulthood.
As it is, only about 1 in 1000 hatchlings will make it to breeding age which begins around 20 years old, but with human interference, the ratio is much worse.
One big problem is the constant hunt for more land. Large resorts and housing have been built where turtles would normally nest.
Turtles always come back to the same nesting spot each year. Conservationists have said that the turtles actually come back to the same beach they hatched from. It is the only piece of land they know.
Once that piece of land is taken away from the turtle, she may not nest at all.
Another issue is poaching.
Apparently turtle eggs are a delicacy in some Asian countries, and restaurants will pay big money to get their hands them.
Locals also will gather them up to eat themselves.
Every night on Pom Pom Island the volunteers would take turtle walks to hopefully find the new nests before the poachers got to it.
There were actually 2 nights where volunteers came across a nest, but sadly they were too late. The poachers had beaten them to it.
Ocean trash is another big culprit in the decline of the turtle population.
Turtles eat jellyfish and a floating plastic bag looks a lot like one. Once ingested it can cause many different complications and normally leads to death.
What can we do?
TRACC has been working with the Big Pom Pom Resort to try and save the turtle population. When they find a new nest, they will collect the eggs and take them to the resort’s turtle hatchery.
They will then be placed in a manmade nest until they hatch.
Once hatched, they will be taken to the beach where they start their long hard journey to deeper waters.
Tasikoki also has a turtle conservation program. We had the pleasure of visiting it just a few weeks ago.
The hatchery is located on a beach about an hour and a half from the rehabilitation center.
We were able to meet the local men who have been hired to patrol the beaches and move the nests before they have a chance to be poached.
Then, like on Pom Pom, the eggs are placed in a new nest until they hatch, but these new nests are directly off the beach, so the hatchlings can literally crawl right from their nest to the water.
The night we were visiting the hatchery one of the nests actually hatched!
I have had a lot of incredible experiences in my travels, but this definitely has to be at the top of the list!
I don’t think I have ever rooted harder for something. Knowing the hardships those little hatchlings had ahead of them, made me want to do whatever I could to help them…..without disrupting nature of course.
We did help the hatchlings make their way to the water by standing in-between the turtles and the shoreline with lights. Naturally the turtles would find their way out to water by following the light on the horizon.
Since humans have added so much artificial light in the areas most turtles nest, the hatchlings can get disoriented and head away from the water. Then they use up all their energy crawling in the wrong direction and never make it to the water.
Getting to the water is just a small obstacle in the grand scheme of things.
Once they reach the water, the turtle have to run (or should I say swim) a gauntlet of predators before they can make their way to deeper, safer waters.
I managed to help 3 hatchlings make their way to the ocean. Once that wave took them out to sea, they were on their own.
All I could do then was bid them good luck and farewell!
I hope 20 years from now at least 1 of those hatchlings is seen coming up to nest on that very beach. I’ll never know for sure, but I will always have that memory of watching those 3 little guys crawl their way through the sand and head out into the big blue.
Would you like to work with turtle conservation? You can find more info on how you can volunteer on TRACC’s website. Tasikoki doesn’t have a volunteer program for their turtle program just yet, but they are planning on having something set up in the near future. You can find more info on their website.