Each year, between the months of March to September, Trinidad hosts some very special guests. More than 10, 000 leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) travel across the Atlantic Ocean to nest on beaches located on Trinidad’s east coast. Leatherbacks are the largest surviving turtle species on earth. They can grow up to seven feet long and weigh more than 2000 pounds. They can live up to 45 years. It must be mentioned though that this species is endangered, which means that it has been categorized as very likely to become extinct.
During nesting months, females swim ashore, dig their nests in the sand before laying, then covering the eggs over and returning to the sea. Two months later, the eggs hatch, and the baby turtles dig themselves out of their nests and venture out to the open sea. Few survive the predators and make it to maturity, but those females that do then return to the beaches on which they were born to begin the cycle once more.
Both Grande Rivière and Matura are well-known and protected beaches in northeast Trinidad. Matura is considered to be Trinidad’s safest nesting beach because of the decline of the threat of poaching, which was once rampant.
Even though, poaching is not much of a threat anymore, many other threats have arisen, including climate change and environmental degradation.
Nature Seekers is a nature-based conservation group which has strong roots in Matura. They envision an empowered organisation supporting a sustainable ecosystem. The group hosts an annual beach clean up in preparation for the upcoming leatherback turtle nesting season. On Sunday 4th March 2018, eNRgyTT and Altech Energy collectively formed a group to participate in this year’s beach cleanup. Our group of 9 was just a small fraction of the total of approximately 2000 volunteers to come out in hopes of preparing the beach to host our reptile friends. Apart from our team, volunteers hailed from organizations such as the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), El Socorro Wildlife Centre, Forestry Division and the Ministry of Rural Development & Local Government, just to name a few. Over 100 bags of garbage were collected and sorted in recyclables and general waste.
It is safe to say this undertaking was a tremendous success since the day after we participated in the Matura Beach Cleanup, four leatherback turtles came ashore to nest in the night. I am really proud of our team and I’m glad we could have contributed in our own little way.
eNRgyTT’s Turtle Watching Tips:
Please do not visit nesting beaches on your own. Always use a trained guide who will be aware of any dangers to the turtles and to visitors;
Do not touch or disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings in any way. Keep a safe distance away;
Do not remove eggs from nest;
Lights (including flash photography), noise and activity tend to disorient both turtles and hatchlings. Try to be quiet and unobtrusive, and do not use flashlights or flash photography;
Do not try to pick up hatchlings or impede their progress to the sea;
DO NOT ride turtles;
Do not drive on nesting beaches; the weight of the vehicle can crush eggs buried in the sand.