Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Wake a Sleeping Turtle

Training week is coming to an end and that means that we have 18 new volunteers eager to get onto the beach and into the forest to commence survey action for phase 113. However, before all that can begin we are still performing our nest checks and night walks as we have business to attend to from the end of leatherback season and phase 112.

This brought staff members Richard Phillips and Jonathan Moore to the beach on Friday morning. A routine nest check was planned although with many tracks to count as the green season is beginning to escalate. Approaching the end of the 3 mile stretch of surveyed beach, Rich walked up a track with no return track to sea. Expecting to see a victim of the elusive jaguar he was not surprised to find a turtle a few metres from the vegetation laying in a body pit. At this point Jonathan joined Rich at the turtles side and they both looked at her still body for a couple of moments.

It then dawned on the pair that this scene seemed odd as there was no evidence of jaguar presence, nor any wounds on the turtle. Rich leaned down to the turtle to see what was going on and could see that it’s eyes were closed. The only conclusion was that somehow this nesting female had become so exhausted by the egg laying process that she had nodded off in the closing stages of disguising!

With a few tentative nudges to the carapace and a check of the flippers for tags, she slowly began to stir. Obviously dazed and not quite awake (with no coffee on hand) the turtle began to spin in a circle seemingly not knowing in which direction was the sea. However, after being given a few moments, she eventually set her targets on the water and made a straight line down the beach.

This is infrequent moment for us turtle workers as it meant that we could take photos of her finishing up the nest. Their normal nocturnal habits mean that their presence times with a ban on electronic equipment use on the beach, so as not to disturb them.

We have a potentially big green season ahead, hopefully we will be seeing a few more turtles on nest check. But with any luck not those that are leaving themselves quite so open to jaguar attack.

Rich Phillips