Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Beaches in the afternoon and hatchlings

There are few things as relaxing as an afternoon beach walk. The magic hour is between 5.30 and 6.30pm. In the tropics, dusk is almost a memory when it arrives. We don't have a romantic hour of the gloaming; our dusk is accelerated but still very beautiful. The beach at Balandra is perfect for this type of walk. On this day the tide was right up and the beach full of driftwood, palm seeds, and water hyacinths that come from the Orinoco.

Ross and I spent the weekend at Grande Riviere, a small fishing village that is best known for attracting nesting leatherback turtles. The leatherback turtle (dermochelys coriacea) come up to lay their eggs all along the north and eastern coast of Trinidad. The map above shows the global distribution of leatherback's nesting sites with yellow circles representing minor nesting locations and red circles denoting major nesting sites. According to Wikipedia (from which I have taken the map above, click to go to page)"recent estimates of global nesting populations are that 26,000 to 43,000 nest annually, which is a dramatic decline from the 115,000 estimated in 1980. These declining numbers have energized efforts to rebuild the species which is critically endangered. The turtle have their favorite beaches and Grande Riviere attracts hundreds of mama leatherbacks during the laying season which opens in March and runs until June. Grande Riviere has become a haven for the leatherback as conservation efforts are stringently enforced during the season. This little fishing village is now known internationally as one of the best places to view these beautiful sea creatures making their way onto land to lay their eggs. In August, we are too late for the laying but we are just in time for the hatchlings.

Walking along the Grande Riviere beach we come across hundreds of white, abandoned eggs. We can only hope that most of the hatchlings make it. In an attempt to help the hatchlings' odds, hatchling "sentries" collect the hatchlings all day and keep them in cool, penned areas before supervising a controlled release. This works to protect the hatchlings from the dogs and vultures that sit patiently waiting for these delicate morsels to hatch. We were lucky to catch one lone hatchling on our walk and help him on his way.The hatchlings are born with a strong instinct for the water. They will immediately begin their determined and hurried path to the sea. Self preservation drives this for at this point they are very vulnerable to predators such as dogs, vultures and humans.

God speed turtle. May you have a long, long life.