First hatchling crawling to the sea.
Photo courtesy of Scott Eckert/Earthwatch Institute
Baby Turtles Have Started Hatching!
by Richard Reina, sea turtle scientist

Good news! Our first leatherback hatchlings have emerged from their nests in the hatchery!

Last night, after 67 days of incubation in our beach hatchery, seven tiny heads and pairs of flippers finally poked through the sand. These are hatchlings from the eggs that we first relocated on October 10, and there are many more baby turtles to come, both from this nest and the other 320 nests laid this season!

The hatchlings from nest H001 emerged as a group, but quickly spread out as they made a dash for the sea. They knew instinctively where to go. With our protection they all made it safely to the water.

Because of predators, the crawl to the sea can be a very dangerous time for hatchlings. This crawl may also play an important role in helping the hatchlings to remember the location of where they are so the females can return here to nest as adults.

Where will the hatchlings go next? No one really knows. We have very little information about what happens to them after they enter the ocean. Only a few survive to become adults, perhaps only a few in a thousand. Many of the turtles have been accidentally caught and have died in fishing nets off Chile and Peru.

When Dr. Paladino comes in January, he will attach radio transmitters to two of the adult females to find out more about where the turtles are going. In previous years, four turtles were tracked as they migrated 2,700 kilometers south past the Galápagos Islands into deeper Pacific waters.

I hope that you have all enjoyed learning about our project here at Playa Grande and have come to love turtles as much as we do. It's been a lot of fun telling you about life here in Costa Rica and answering your questions.

One more piece of good news: Lefty returned for a sixth time to nest!

Best wishes for the holiday season!