This was the first time the DoE has excavated a turtle nest in January.
The 2012 turtle nesting season lasted longer than normal, with the first turtle nest being recorded in mid-April, said DoE research officer Janice Blumenthal.
Ms Blumenthal and colleague Paul Chin excavated the nest of green sea turtle eggs in front of Grand View apartment complex on 3 January, where management and residents had erected a small solid wood fence to protect the nest. The fence ensured any baby turtles that hatched during the day could be caught and released into the sea at night time when they would not be visible to birds and fish that can spot and eat the tiny creatures in daylight.
Ms Blumenthal said the eggs, which were laid two and a half months ago, were slower than usual to hatch this season because of a drop in recent temperatures. “At the beginning of summer, they hatch really slowly; by the middle of summer, they hatch fast because of the high temperature of the sand speeds up the incubation; and then at the end they slow down again,” she said.
It takes an average of 60 days for an egg to hatch.
The nest contained two lots of eggs as the same turtle laid eggs twice on exactly the same site, one on top of the other, so the eggs recovered by Ms Blumenthal and Mr. Chin included hatched and unhatched eggs from both nestings. They did not find any live baby turtles in the nest Thursday, but located about 30 hatched eggs. They also found about 70 unhatched eggs, some of which had developed into embryos or in which developing but dead embryos were found.
The turtle at Grand View, which dug and laid eggs in five nests outside the complex throughout the season, was identified by its tag as a turtle released from the Turtle Farm in 1987.
“This was a new one we’d never seen before. We don’t see them all at night so it’s possible she’s been here before but was nesting at night,” said Ms Blumenthal.
Each nesting season, DoE staff and volunteers walk the beaches to search for turtle tracks, called batabano, which lead them to the buried nests. They tag and log the nests so they can come back and check if the eggs have hatched about two months after they are laid.
Baby turtles can survive for a week or more under the sand as they climb out of the nests which are several feet deep. Sometimes, a few of the baby turtles cannot dig their way out and the DoE staff rescue and release those when excavating the nests.
The nest excavations enable the DoE to keep a count of how many eggs are in each nest, how many have successfully hatched and how many have not developed.