We excavated a nest and found an egg alive, but not hatched. After 24 hours and no change, we opened the egg to find this guy! He was alive, but because he hadn’t hatched out his egg in time, his shell had hardened folded over. Despite this, he was strong and fast and could lift his head out of the water…though I don’t fancy what his odds were.
You can also see the “belly button” - the part which would have been attached to the yolk - which is why you have to be so careful when handling a hatchling. This remains open and vulnerable to your prying fingers.
*BIG BUZZER SOUND* I think this person is about to put them straight into the water….
The one on the right, she’s doing it right.
Bicephalic Green Turtle Hatchlings by Karen Chen
Bicephalic or tricephalic animals are the only type of multi-headed creatures seen in the real work and form by the same process as conjoined twins: resulting from the failed seperation of monozygotic twins.
These guys never even made it out the egg. They are at Stage 3 of development. I’ll try and get to explaining the stages later. We found them when we did a nest excavation and opened the unhatched eggs to note the stage of development. This can tell you a lot about your hatchery location/shade etc.
A year later, I made a slightly better video than the previous!
pretty very amateur) promo video I made for the hatchery I was involved in a few years back.
Sea turtle been gone doin’ it themselves for millions of years. It is only the threats of modern day existence (ahem *us* ahem) that is inflicting a double-edged sword on their populations.
At one end you have adult turtles exploited for “medicinal benefits” AND incidental catches in shrimp nets, baited hooks and other fishing methods aimed at other species. On the other you have egg collection (poaching) that is fairly widespread in area’s where turtles have traditionally nested.
If we CAN avoid disturbing a turtle nest, and just monitor it in situ then that must always be the first choice. Only if there is pressure from egg collectors, coastal development or predators should eggs be moved.
Hatcheries are a lot of work. A lot. And for very little outcome. Numbers fly around in any conservation issue all the time, but the one that sticks for turtles is only 1/1000 survive to adulthood. If you have an average of 100 eggs per nest, a hatchery must successfully harbour 10 nests before it has made any difference, and even then it isn’t guaranteed.
Let’s face it, the best chance you have of seeing a turtle hatchling is at a hatchery. So affected are the nesting sites of sea turtles, that many have some sort of set-up for egg relocation. And a great way to generate income for hatcheries is tourism. But there is a very clear line between right and wrong here. And so so many hatcheries are doing it wrong…
Don’t support hatcheries that do the following:-
- Keep a hatchery if the eggs can be left in situ… they are just doing it for the profits.
- Keep hatchlings past 24 hrs of emerging from the nest
Many believe that keeping hatchlings until they are bigger and “stronger” will allow them a fighting chance against predators. In fact, it is completely counter-productive. Turtles, over millenia of no parental guidance, are born with natural instincts to follow on hatching. Once out of the nest, they orientate themselves towards the brightest horizon…in a natural environment, this would be the sea at sunrise and sunset (when natural hatching occurs). At this point they have the last of the energy from the yolk to jettison across (and away) from the reef and it’s predators and head towards the deep blue. Keeping hatchlings means they lose these instincts. Hatchlings released after a few months are seen hanging around the reef - where they shouldn’t be until years later.
- Keep hatchlings in water
As soon as turtles are in water they start swimming, expending all the energy that should be saved for propelling them away from the coral reef.
- Allow extensive access to hatchlings
Remember, if you are truly committed to turtle conservation, you’ve got to realise that the less you interact with wild turtles the better. Be wary of hatcheries that charge for photographs, charge for releasing a hatchling, and let people hold/kiss/breath on hatchlings.
Be wary of hatcheries that:-
- Release turtles straight into the water
Female Sea Turtles have an uncanny ability to return to their beach of ‘birth’ to lay their eggs when they reach sexual maturity. How they know where or how to return after over 20 years on the open seas is not fully understood. Some theories include the recognition of chemical signatures of the sand. Hatcheries should be releasing hatchlings at the height of a natural nest and letting them make their way to the sea on their own.
- Don’t excavate the nest
This is an absolute necessity. Any egg shells, dead hatchlings, wet sand MUST be excavated. If left, it is a hot house for bacteria infections that can spread to other nests, and will attract predators to the hatchery.
- Release different batches of hatchlings at the same place
Nature isn’t stupid. If you release bucket loads of hatchlings in the same place, you create a feeding station - somewhere predators know is an easy meal, completely rescinding all the efforts of the incubation period.
Many hatcheries are set up by well meaning individuals who lack the scientific background. It may seem like common sense to keep something until it’s big enough to stand up for itself, but the links between ecological processes are a little bit more complicated than that.
Ask if they have heard or are following IUCN protocols which aim to synchronise conservation efforts between hatcheries, to best affect the different species.
This is bullshit! A female turtle lays her eggs on a nesting beach, covers them up and never sees them again. There is no parental guidance, no happy family ‘nuggin” scene like in Finding Nemo. The hatchlings follow their natural instincts and head out to sea on their own.
I understand that animals in captivity help create empathy for their cause, but why can’t it be factual. At least!
Albino hatchlings aren’t entirely uncommon. They occur if temperatures in the nest are too cold.
If you ever see newly hatched turtles, they are teeming with energy. That energy is supposed to take them out to sea, past the reef, and possibly towards seaweed strand lines over the deep ocean.
Keeping them in a tank, even for a few days means all that energy is wasted clawing at the side of the tank.
An albino turtle, how cute :)