Tiny tracks into an unknown future
Tiny flipper marks in the sand! They are only half the size of my hand. We follow the little track to the water. The first hatchling of the 2015 season, in Zakynthos, made its way safely to the sea!
18/07/2015: *H - HSE001, 1->SEA, we record in our morning survey book. In ARCHELON language, that means: *H= First time this nest hatches, HSE001= Hatched on Beach Sekania East, Nest number 1, one hatchling out of this nest made it to the sea. And maybe tomorrow morning we will find more tracks? We place a bamboo stick and a stone with the nest code in front so the next team will recognize that we have already recorded this nest.
One clutch has an average of 80-120 eggs, but we will only know the exact number when we do the excavation in two weeks. It usually takes about a week for all hatchlings to come out and, just to be on the safe side to not interfere with the natural process, we wait for an extra week. Then we dig out the egg chamber and count the empty shells as well as the unhatched eggs to find out how successful the nest was.
ACHELON has been monitoring the turtle nesting activity on the beaches of Zakynthos for over 30 years and protects more than 2,500 clutches each year all over Greece from accidental trampelling, from inundation and from predation. This is accompanied by an extensive Public Awareness program targeting school children, locals and tourists. The work is mainly carried out by volunteers from Greece and from all over the world.
Now, the first 2015 hatchling is on its way into an unknown future. It still remains a mystery where she will spend her juvenile years – only in 20 yearsʼ time she will return to the Bay of Laganas to lay a nest herself. However, her chances to survive the next year are low. The soft shell does not protect the small turtle from natural predators. Yet, one of the major threats to the Greek sea turtle populations is the degradation of their nesting habitats. Will there be a beach in 20 years where, in the darkness and quietness of the night, she can find a suitable patch of sand to place her eggs? The Mediterranean coastline has suffered from the unsustainable development of the past 50 years and natural beaches have become scarce. Hopefully, together with teachers, parents, governments and citizens, we can promote the value of intact shorelines, not only for sea turtles and other species, but also for the people. So when the next generation walks along the Zakynthian beaches in July 2035, they stop, look at the ground and there they are: Tiny flipper marks in the sand!