As promised this Spring when I blogged about the turtle hatching, I was also planning to join for the Cozumel turtle nesting season. I joined with the Cozumel Turtle Ecology Program to scout for new nests and thus mark their location during the nesting season so we could return to them for the hatching. We managed to find ourselves a mother Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) on the night I joined for the adventure.
It is probably obvious by now, but when we are searching for the Cozumel turtle nesting on our beaches we utilize only red lights so as to not disturb the female turtles. Hopefully we can spot them from a distance in this manner, which results in us not disturbing them before they begin depositing the eggs. Additionally, we do not approach them until after they have begun actually laying their eggs. The process to dig the hole can take up to an hour and as a result the hole can be up to 3 feet deep.
Once the process has begun the females are much less easily spooked and because of this some brief bright white light is unobtrusive as long as you are not shining it in their eyes. In the above photo you can clearly see the female dropping eggs into the hole.
The beautiful female mid-labor. You could tell she was tired as she was regularly taking deep breathes with a large sigh of relief.
After the eggs have all been deposited the female turtle first packs in the hole. Her flexibility in the rear flippers at this point was very surprising to me. The rear flippers were easily cupping or scooping the sand as she dug, most noteworthy because I didn’t realize a turtle had that much dexterity in it’s rear flippers.
Now that the hole is filled the female begins to cover the hole even further, this time using both front and rear flippers. This process was a solid 45 minutes and you could tell it was exhausting for the turtle. Between the rhythmic tossing of sand to the rear she was taking frequent breaks to rest. Once she determined the hole was sufficiently buried it was time to turn and burn. Little time was wasted as the female made a sprint direct for the ocean.
Cozumel Turtle Nesting Video
Please enjoy this video we’ve put together of the experience.
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