Turtle nesting season “looking positive”

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The month of August is the peak period for turtle nesting season in Belize. The full season runs from May to November. Reports from the Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program is that as the peak of the season approaches, 2013 is looking positive, with over 50 nests found so far on Ambergris Caye.

Loggerhead turtle nest at Robles Point beach
Kirah Forman, Marine Biologist at Hol Chan Marine Reserve spearheads the turtle program on Ambergris Caye and sheexplained that the nesting season is looking good. “So far we have had 56 nests. These nests were mostly found in the Robles Point and Rocky Point areas. We had a few in the Basil Jones area and one near Capricorn,” said Forman. “The nest we found near Capricorn was that of a Loggerhead turtle and the staff alerted us and we visited the area. That nest has hatched and from the 109 eggs, 80 hatched, which is a very good hatching success. It proves the theory that all of Ambergris Caye was a turtle nesting site at one point.”

Turtle at Capricorn - Pics Courtesy of Clive Humes
At the start of July, a total of 35 turtle nests were recorded in Ambergris Caye for 2013. Two nests had hatched successfully while unfortunately two were destroyed by after effects of Tropical Depression 2. A few of the nests were also relocated in July due to heavy surf. Up to July 30, 56 nests have been located, with four more months more to go into the 2013 season. “This year, the nesting season is also looking good,” commented Forman.

30 Turtle nest relocated- Hol Chan
And while the change in weather and beach erosion is an environmental challenge, humans have also been one of the major challenges for turtle conservation efforts. Poaching of turtle and nests, development, traffic on beach are all factors that affects the turtle conservation efforts. “One of the things that affect hatchlings along the beach is lighting. Hatchlings orient themselves to the brighter lights and if hotels and businesses and even private homes have bright lights they head towards it. For that reason, we are asking people who have bright lighting, on the northern part of the island to be mindful. We have even asked them to turn down the brightness of the light during the turtle nesting and hatching season,” said Forman. “During this season we also get a lot of stranded hatchlings along the beach. If people come across them on the beach, we asked them to bring the hatchlings into the Hol Chan Office or call the office and report it. We also remind the public that it is illegal to keep turtles as pets. In fact it is illegal to have any turtle products or carcass, eggs, hatchlings, etc.”

Turtle at Capricorn - Pics Courtesy of Clive Humes (1)
Since 2009, Ambergris Caye’s Marine Turtle Program, through Hol Chan Marine Reserve with assistance from the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, has been collecting and monitoring activities on three species of turtles known to nest Ambergris Caye. Those three species are the Loggerhead turtle (ChleoniaCaretta), the Green turtle (ChleoniaMydas) and the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate). Some interesting findings are that, since the program started, there has been an increase in turtle nests found and monitored. In 2012, 85 turtle nests were found on northern Ambergris Caye compared to the 43 found in 2011.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is encouraging everyone living on the beach on the northern coastline to reduce the use of lights on the beach where possible and to please exercise caution when traveling via motorized vehicles along the beach. Sea turtles are ecologically important and have great significance for our tourism industry. Please do not disturb anything that you suspect is a turtle nest. Report all suspected nests or sea turtle crawls to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office at 226-2247.

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