A routine turtle nest excavation turned up a unique find for the Department of Environment’s turtle team on Friday, when they unearthed a rare albino sea turtle hatchling.
According to the DoE, the turtle team conducts hundreds of nest excavations during the nesting season, but in this case the albino turtle was a lucky discovery.
Janice Blumenthal, marine research officer at the DoE, said the department excavates all turtle nests after hatching to evaluate the hatch success and fertility of nests.
“Occasionally, we discover albino or leucistic embryos when we break open unhatched eggs. It is rare to discover a live albino hatchling like this one,” she said.
The DoE turtle team released the albino turtle into the wild Friday night.
“If any live hatchlings are found trapped in a nest during the excavation, they are released after dark when they have the best chance of escaping nearshore predators,” said Blumenthal.
The location of the nest where the hatchling was found has not been released.
Generally, the location of turtle nests is not made public to ensure the safety of the turtle hatchlings, since people tend to interfere with the nests or go out and try to dig them up themselves.
May to November is turtle-nesting season in the Cayman Islands, during which sea turtles emerge from the sea, lay their eggs in the sand, and return to the water.
If you find a turtle track, nest or baby turtles, or see anyone disturbing a turtle, contact the Department of Environment via the turtle hotline: 938-NEST (938-6378).