Thursday, 11 November 2010

WATAMU Nov 11th
David Attenborough would have penned a narration something like this..Two months ago a lone female turtle struggled up this beach from the water line to the point at which the vegetation begins. She excavated a deep hole and laid over one hundred eggs in it before covering them with sand and returning, exhausted, to the sea. Since then, the sand has insulated and incubated the eggs at precisely the right temperature. And tonight something very special is about to happen...There would then be a shot of sand moving at the bottom of a depression after which would come the quite breathtakingly thrilling spectacle of the first turtle emerging from the nest, followed soon after by its many brothers and sisters. I have seen a few wonderful wildlife moments but there have been none as magical as this.
The journey to the sea these tiny hatchlings have to make, they must make unaided. Any females that survive until maturity in 25-30 years time, which is probably 1, possibly 2 and in exceptional circumstances 3 of the 100 or so that hatched, will need to have made that journey so that it is indelibly printed in them because it is to this exact spot that she will return. There were plenty of ghost crabs in the vicinity, anxious to avail themselves of free food, but the presence of a dozen or so human spectators was enough to discourage even the bravest of them. Virtually all made it to the sea, negotiating huge piles of seaweed as they did. One or two would not have because they went up the dunes in the wrong direction. I found it quite difficult not to pick them up and put them on the runway we had cleared earlier but we were under strict instructions and they had to be allowed to go.
They are microscopic little things. The size of a hatchling’s shell is about the same as I can make by making an oval shape out of my forefinger and thumb. They float in super-vulnerability until they can learn to dive, which takes a few days, after which they have to avoid a raft of predators and other situations if they are to develop further. It is a high attrition rate and it ensures the strongest gene pool for the future.
I could have written about the villages we visited to collect turtles from fishermen in the morning. I could have written lots about the people staying near to the private beach where the hatching occurred who joined the Turtle Watch people as it did. I could have tried to sketch the total brilliance of the coastline where it is such a privilege to be working.
No way. Today was all about tiny creatures starting an immense journey. They will need all the luck they can get

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