Thursday, August 16, 2012

How do you make a grown-up grin like a little kid?

Linda G. and her baby turtle

.... hand her a squirming baby turtle.  The result is a wide, face-splitting grin.

Arriving on Media Luna beach, near the north end of the island we fully expected the turtle release start time would be approximate, más o menos, meaning more or less, accompanied by the appropriate mocking hand wiggle-waggle.

Surprisingly the event started on time! 

Large green tubs of wriggling baby turtles were transported on a flatdeck truck from the turtle farm, getting as close to the beach as possible.

Then individual turtle farm workers lifted the heavy buckets overhead, toting the turtles down to the beach.Covetous hands of all sizes stretched out, pushing plastic buckets, and containers towards the workers as they carefully scooped handfuls of turtles to distribute to the crowd. 

Joann with baby turtle
My sister Joann, Lawrie’s sister Linda, and new island friends Andy and Yumiko were as excited as anyone; holding the babies up for photos, releasing them onto the sand for the dash to the water, and groaning when the surf unceremoniously tossed ‘their turtle’ back on the beach.

How anyone could tell which turtle was their turtle – I have no idea.They are all small, all moving, and all about the colour of dried seaweed.At this point in their lives these turtles are about one inch tall, and the waves were about twelve inches high - similar to a human swimming in twelve-foot waves.   

Birds arriving to feast on babies
As the flocks of predatory birds swooped over the waves plucking up the unlucky ones, I couldn’t help but think that maybe a slightly later start time would have been better. 

Timing is everything. 

Photographers in surf
It becomes a fine balance between creating the right lighting for good photographs to increase the interest in the turtle release program, and dark enough that the maximum number of babies will at least survive the initial launch.  Without the assistance from the hatching program a baby turtle has a one-in-a-thousand chance of surviving. 

This year, in the first three months of turtle season the workers have collected a record breaking 65,000 eggs. The increase in collected eggs will hopefully increase the number of babies maturing to adults. 

I am NOT touching that!

The lucky ones that survive predators and spinning boat propellers and occasional un-sanctioned hunting will return to Isla in about fifteen years to mate and start the cycle all over again.

We have been involved with the fun of previous releases but this one was far more entertaining.  We were with a group of family members and friends that had not seen a turtle release. 
Their grins were delightful; their enjoyment infectious.  Great memories.

Andy and Yumiko - first turtle release

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