Opinion: A relaxing vacation featuring baby turtles on the front lines of nature!
Jan 17, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2023, 12:41 pm
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When my wife Becki and I accepted an invitation to spend a quiet week at a friend’s condo on the beaches of San Jose Del Cabo, little did we know that we would be called to action with baby turtles on the front lines of nature!
After a few days of doing what tourists do on such getaways our friend, a long-term resident and volunteer at the turtle sanctuary just down the beach received a call that a nest of eggs had hatched and would be released within the hour.
Volunteers scour the beachfront daily looking for signs of a freshly made nest in order to collect the eggs for safekeeping until they hatch.
Prelude to the baby turtles’ adventure
Each year between June and November, sea turtles land on Mexico beaches to nest in the warm sands. Digging the nest can take anywhere from one to three hours depending on the conditions. After laying up to 100 eggs, the momma turtle drags herself back to the ocean. She leaves the nest and her eventual offspring to fend for themselves.
The first challenge to their survival is safely incubating in the nest for an average of 45 days depending on the species. This challenge includes somehow avoiding curious tourists’ interest, or play, and of course predators.
The hatch itself usually occurs at night, between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., possibly providing a safe cover of darkness from birds that treat the hatchlings as a sort of seafood buffet before reaching the water.
Once in the water, the danger increases with predator fish that also answer the dinner bell. It’s easy to understand why these little guys are endangered in many areas. And why the sanctuary is so vigilant about the search for and protection of these creatures.
Last step, the release of the baby turtles
The last step is the release, which takes place immediately after the hatch. The sanctuary workers prioritize getting the newborns back to the same beach where their mothers left them. Science says this helps tune the turtles’ natural GPS. It helps them return to the same location and continue the process again. That is if they survive and mature to that stage.
With every 1,000 turtles released by sanctuaries, the hope is that one turtle completes the life cycle and returns to nest in these sands again.
All of the baby turtles turn instinctively toward the water. Without hesitation, they made a mad scramble for the sea. And we couldn’t help but be emotional about our very small part on the front lines of nature.
An important safety reminder
We were under the watchful eye of the sanctuary professionals and were wearing gloves for this release. If you are fortunate enough to witness this process in the wild, do not pick them up or handle them. Simply give the turtles enough room to run as they begin their journey to deeper ocean waters.
Tim Hughes is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of KSL Outdoors.
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