This summer we had the good fortune to watch a Hawksbill Sea Turtle nest hatch in Bonaire. We have long been curious about this phenomenon, and luck was on our side that evening.
Hawksbill turtles, like most sea turtles, return to the same beach each year to lay eggs. The female turtle digs deep into the sand to lay her eggs. Hawksbill can lay up to 150 eggs in a single nest, after which the incubation lasts for a period of around two months.
Please note: We happened upon this nest hatching late at night and had no camera gear other than iPhones. Please excuse the quality of the pics.
Hawksbill Turtle Eggs
When the eggs are ready to hatch, the hatchlings dig out of the hole as a group, generally at night. Once they emerge, they head towards the brightest location they find. Ideally, this would be the ocean, but in populated areas they often head in the wrong direction. Hatchlings that fail to find the ocean quickly often die, and only one in a thousand baby sea turtles survives until maturity.
Newly hatched hawksbill turtle. It is being held by an experienced biologist who is gently shielding its eyes from the light to ensure the proper species ID. Once this ID photo was taken, all light sources were removed.
Excavating the nest
This is where sea turtle conservation groups like Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) come into play. This amazing organization has a mission to ensure that Bonaire’s turtles have a secure future. Turtle nest monitoring is one of many valuable functions that STCB performs. In Bonaire, there are an average of 75 turtles nests each year.
STCB monitors each known nest in Bonaire and oversees the emerging hatchlings to ensure that as many as possible make it to sea. Part of this process entails excavating the next to check for survivors and count the eggs.
The nest excavation
After the excavation is complete and the eggs are counted, the baby turtles are taken to a dark location on the island and carefully placed into the sea. This gives them the best possible chance to survive their entry into the world.
STCB does incredible work to ensure the health of Bonaire’s sea turtle population. Please consider supporting this organization so that it can continue to make a difference.
Donate to STCB
Volunteer with STCB
Purchase STCB merchandise on Bonaire