Baby turtles that hatched over the Christmas holidays were released into the ocean on Christmas Day.
The hatching near The Palms condo complex in West Bay is a late one, said Lucy Collyer of the Department of Environment.
“It came as a surprise because we thought the nesting season had finished,” she said.
The turtle nesting season typically runs from May to November.
The eggs found in West Bay were laid on Oct. 30. It usually takes 45 to 50 days for the eggs to hatch, Ms. Collyer said. In this instance, because the weather is cooler at this time of year, the incubation period was 26 days, she said.
She and a group of friends and longtime volunteer Lorri Lamb released the baby turtles into the sea on the evening of Dec. 25. The eggs had started to hatch two days earlier.
“We let them have two days to come out naturally on their own,” Ms. Collyer said. Then they excavated the nest to check whether any of the baby turtles remained inside.
Baby turtles that make their way from a nest into the sea in daylight often fall prey to birds and fish because the hatchlings are so visible against the white sandy bottom of the near shore. To give them a better chance of survival in their first foray in to the sea, volunteers usually collect the baby turtles once they emerge from the nest and keep them safe until releasing them into the ocean at night.
“We release them from the same site [as the nest],” Ms. Collyer said. “We make sure that they get to walk down the beach and across the sand.
“The whole process of coming up through the nest chamber and across the sand and down to the beach is how they orientate themselves back to the beach [to lay their own eggs] in 20 to 25 years’ time.”
Record nesting year
So far this year, the Department of Environment noted a record 306 nests across Grand Cayman. Of those, 168 were nests of green sea turtles and 138 were of loggerhead turtles. The department began keeping track of turtle nests in 1998.
In Little Cayman, 90 nests were recorded – 34 green turtles, 54 loggerheads and two hawksbills. In Cayman Brac, 33 loggerhead nests and three green sea turtle nests were found.
Interns and volunteers who patrol the beaches throughout the nest season logged 3,124 hours this year in Grand Cayman alone, according to Ms. Collyer.