Day 5 (Fri., 4/24/09)- Last Night with the Turtles!

Waking up to hatchlings, lecture time, and the final night… full of turtles!!!

This morning we enjoyed being able to sleep in for a while to help catch up on our lost sleep from our evenings on the beach. When we did get up we were pleasantly surprised to see three leatherback hatchlings sitting in a bucket in the Natureseeker’s lobby. Francis, one of the Natureseekers, had dug them out of a nest during his morning patrol of the beach to count turtle tracks.  Apparently they were left behind when their siblings escaped to the ocean during the night before. It’s really mind-blowing to see how something so tiny can grow to become one of the massive and robust leatherbacks that we have been working with on our nightly outings to the beach.  

We also got to try some delicious coconut that Nate and Jason found exploring around the guesthouse. Others of us sat around and conversed, joked, and read books while enjoying our relaxing morning.

In the afternoon, we talked about the Trinidad leatherback populations and the effects of bycatch from fisheries. It was interesting to learn more about the scientific efforts to assess and reduce bycatch after we had spoken to the fisherman yesterday.  We talked about the importance of cooperating with fisherman and providing them with numerous options to determine which ones will work best for them while reducing bycatch.

Tonight was our last night working on our projects and tagging turtles on Matura’s beach.  After having a couple nights of bad luck in some zones with only seeing a few turtles a night, we ended the week with a bang! We felt overjoyed and overwhelmed with the large number of turtles nesting on the beach tonight. At one point several groups were working within 100 feet of each other on the beach with five or six turtles on the beach and three or four crawling up out of the water.  At one point Amanda had to try to stop a turtle coming onto the beach from running into one that was in the process of digging her hole. At another point three turtles were nesting right next to each other. 

Attempting to record data with so many turtles was both extremely rewarding and difficult! We ended the night by watching the three hatchlings be released into the surf. This was a perfect way to end our time at the beach, hoping that the hatchlings released from Matura this year will return to this same beach to lay the next generation of eggs.