Every year hundreds of baby loggerhead turtles hatch on the beaches of the Caribbean and journey towards the ocean. This year one group of baby turtles on the Dutch-controlled island of Bonair needed a little help.
“This group of baby turtles hatched on a beach next to an airport,” Dr. Sue Willis, the program director of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, told ABC News.
“After the turtles hatch they crawl towards the brightest light they see, which is usually the moon over the ocean. But the airport’s bright lights distract the turtles and make them crawl in the wrong direction. Two years ago we lost an entire group of hatchlings after they crawled onto a busy road,” said Willis.
On July 1, when it was time for the baby turtles to make the trek towards the ocean, Willis and other volunteers used a unique method to ensure that this time the baby turtles reached the ocean safely.
“We created a human wall of sorts,” Willis explained. “We surround the baby turtles on both sides so that they cannot see the airport lights. We give them ample space to crawl and form a line all the way down to the ocean so they stay on path.”
Some 112 baby turtles made it safely to the ocean, but the 113th turtle needed a little more help.
“When it hatched it was a little underdeveloped,” Willis said. “So we took care of it overnight, made sure it could breathe and stay hydrated. On July 2 we placed in the exact same spot it hatched, made our human wall, and helped it get safely to the ocean.”
Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species, threatened by fishing and beach development. Over 400 volunteers at Sea Turtle Conservation Bonair ensure that each year the sea turtles that hatch on Bonair beaches make it to the ocean safely.