Woodvines upcoming performances

Sunday March 15th in duo with Stefan Van den Bossche 7:30 - 9:30 Waters edge restaurant BougainvilleaHotel

March 28th and 29th Harrison College Mosaic II at the Frank Collymore hall

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Release... THE TURTLES!

The title of this post is inspired by the famous quote from the film "Clash of the Titans" where Liam Neeson, acting as the God Zeus dramatically announces "Release... the Kraken"...
Well, sea turtles in Barbados are a long way a way from Kraken, they are under threat and need our protection. Fortunately we have The Barbados sea turtle project an organization based at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus). For more than 25 years, they have been involved in conservation of the endangered marine turtle species that forage around and nest on Barbados, through research, education and public outreach as well as monitoring of nesting females, juveniles and hatch-lings.

Our family was introduced to the turtle project two years ago when my wife Louise dragged us all off to the Hilton beach in the middle of the night to follow members of the Barbados Turtle project as they hosted a turtle watch. At first I was not particularly enthused, although on the bright side I had zero chance of getting sunburn. As we learned more about these fascinating, ancient and vulnerable creatures we became hooked. The highlight of our evening arrived when the sand beneath our guide's feet started to erupt with hatch-lings. He had unknowingly been standing on a nest site and was forced to remain absolutely still as they crawled over his feet and 'flippered' towards the sea!
Since then we have been attending turtle watches whenever we are able.

Sometimes a nest of sea turtle hatch-lings may get confused, and instead of hatching at night they will hatch during the day.  In these cases, the BSTP will carefully collect the hatch-lings, place them in a dark moist container, and then release them that same night.

If you are interested, you can sign up to be notified when the BSTP are having a "turtle release", or you can check their Facebook page.

During the release, in support of their efforts, the BSTP staff also have some very cool t-shirts and pins for sale.

Interestingly, the sea turtles that tourists swim with while on various west coast catamaran cruises are in fact themselves tourists! They are green turtles which have probably hatched in Costa Rica. They spend their days hanging out on our shores, feeding and having their pictures taken by visiting paparazzi - what a life! they are stars on the west coast of Barbados and don't even know it.

Our family's most recent participation in a turtle release was a few weeks ago at the Drill Hall beach next to the Barbados Hilton Hotel. Earlier in the day a nest had unusually and unexpectedly hatched in the morning during daylight hours. The BSTP were called, they collected the hatchlings and kept them safe until they could be released at night.

A large crowd of us gathered in the dark with three buckets of energetic hatchlings ready to go, and I mean ready, those little things were moving! As we made our way to the launch site one of our party noticed a baby turtle in the sand. Our first thought was that it had accidentally fallen out of the bucket, we quickly found more and realized that a nest had hatched nearby. There were many red land crabs in the area who were actively pursuing and hunting the turtles. Several small skirmishes developed as we separated crabs from their turtle meal. I managed to rescue two turtles from certain digestion by tapping the crabs on their back causing them to drop their meal and defend themselves. The turtles were o.k. and we added them to the growing collection about to be released on the beach.

The BSTP staff had carved a wide smooth channel in the sand leading to the sea and at launch time, to the delight of onlookers, the turtles were gently taken out of the buckets and placed on the sandy runway where they enthusiastically flippered their way to the surf. Immediately after hatching in the dark, sea turtles will look for the brightest point which is usually the horizon, unless of course they are distracted by bright lights on shore. Turtles are unable to sense red light so while releasing them we make sure to use red light on the land side and stand by the surf shining a white light back towards them, encouraging them to make their way towards the water.

If you wish to report sea turtle activity or if you see a turtle in trouble, call the Turtle Hotline: (246) 230-0142.

Check out the BSTP's Faq for more fascinating sea turtle facts...

Only one in a 1000 turtles makes it back to nest in the area near where they hatched, with any luck it will be one of the turtles I prevented from becoming a crab's dinner!

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