Intern Voice: Leatherback Magic

By 5 years ago
Categories Jalova

 Heather, 6 month intern

Turtle season has officially begun in Jalova. We’ve been seeing tracks and evidence of nesting growing gradually more abundant over the past few weeks, but this week heralded our first turtle night walk.

Our first marked nest of 2013! 

At the time at which most of the camp residents are starting to think about heading to bed, a group of two staff members and three volunteers headed out onto the beach. Since light might deter the turtles from nesting, we walked exclusively by the shine of the moon. Luckily, the near-full moon gave us an excellent view of the many logs and rocks that look surprisingly like turtles in the midnight hours. A little over an hour later we had reached the furthest point of our survey, a mere three and a half miles north of base, with no signs of life.

After a short break we headed back and our hopes of finding a nesting turtle were dwindling. Our quiet conversation was flowing when suddenly we hear a short, sharp “shush” from our patrol leader, Pep. That’s when we saw her: a massive leatherback draped across the sandbank, busily digging her egg chamber. As soon as we confirmed she was nesting, we got to work. While the other team members marked the exact position of the nest, I was privileged enough to get to count the eggs as she was laying them. This involved lying in the sand with my hand deep in the egg chamber counting the eggs as they were being laid. Over a hundred eggs later, she began the delicate ballet that is the disguising of the nest. This was one of the most peaceful, graceful and magical sights I’ve ever seen. The poor turtle, dubbed June, was exhausted by this point and panting so hard each breath sounded like the explosion of a whale’s blowhole.

Heather at the nest the following morning

With the nest disguised and her energy reserves almost depleted, she headed back to the sea. Everyone, including June, heaved a huge sigh of relief when the sea washed over her and carried her back to her natural habitat.