- Posted October 17, 2010 by
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Sea Turtle Release on Kwajalein, RMI
Recently on Kwajalein Island, located in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, students and community aided baby green sea turtles in their quest for survival. Green sea turtles are a threatened and endangered species.
(The following sea turtle information was made available by Kwajalein Range Services Environmental Safety and Health.)
According to Environmental Safety and Health (ES&H), turtle nesting occurs from May 1st until October 31st. The mother turtles come ashore in the dark, mainly during high tide, dig a hole and lay anywhere from 100 -150 eggs, depending on the species and the age of the mother turtle. The mother may return to nest multiple times (3-8) during the nesting season. She covers each nest with sand, and she returns to the sea. The eggs remain in the sand for a gestation period of from 45 -70 days and hatch at night emerging onto the sand, and as they see the light of the reflecting moon on the water, head towards the ocean. Many never make it to the surf due to various predators such as gulls and crabs. Not much is known of the baby turtle’s early life, but in the open ocean they spend three to five years as carnivores. The immature juveniles mature into carnivorous and herbivorous adults. Estimates tell us that they reach mature size in twenty to fifty years, and some species are known to live in the wild for up to eighty years.
On the second day of school, August 27, 2010, one of the Kwajalein Jr/Sr High School students brought in a newborn green sea turtle that he found in a field. The turtle was not heading for the ocean and was found in the residential area of the island. Mr. Griswold, high school science and marine biology teacher, immediately contacted Environmental Safety and Health. ES&H found the nest located on a steep hill facing the island instead of the ocean. Sea turtles usually hatch at night and look for the light reflecting off the surface of the water. Instead, the baby turtles possibly saw the lights from housing and the street lights in the residential areas and wandered inland as the island. ES&H asked the students to assist in searching the area for more turtles and return the turtles for release oceanside. First period biology students found a total of 11 turtles, while second period students found only one. The best part came when the students released the baby turtles in the sand and watched as the small turtles excitedly scurried into the surf. Three days later Mr. Griswold’s marine biology class assisted ES&H in excavating the nest to see if any turtles had been buried alive or if there were un-hatched eggs. It was not the most pleasant job due to the odor, but an experience the students will definitely remember.
A second nest hatched two weeks later, and students and adults who found the small baby turtles carefully picked them up and released them oceanside. On September 21, 2010, a third nest hatched. Approximately 100 small green sea turtles were released into the ocean. A fourth nest hatched about a week ago, but this time the nest was facing the ocean and the turtles had no need for residents to assist them in entering the surf.
ES&H is aware of at least one more nest, which will possibly hatch in a week or so if the same female turtle laid the eggs. Since this nest also faces the ocean, students and residents will probably not encounter any more baby turtles. Still, the beginning of this school year (2010-2011), has been exciting for students at both Kwajalein Jr/Sr High School and George Seitz Elementary School to actually be a part of aiding the baby sea turtles, a threatened and endangered species, in their quest for survival.