On Court with Barbados Turtles
Barbados turtles fresh from a nest and heading for their first moonlit swim on the island’s south coast got a tennis lesson instead.
The tiny toddlers mistook the lights of the Ocean View Tennis Club at Drill Hall, near the Hilton Hotel, for the reflection of the moon off the sea and promptly headed on to court three (see video).
Yannick suspended play and, with the help of pupils and club members, rounded up at least 30 hatchlings into a bucket and set about pointing them in the right direction.
He released them close to the water in a darker area of the beach.
Yannick followed the advice of scientists who suspect the turtles need to crawl the last few metres across the sand.
It is thought this may help the female turtles memorise the location of the beach so they can return when they are ready to lay their eggs.
Barbados Turtles: Critically Endangered
The sandy south coast beaches make ideal nesting sites for two types of Barbados turtle.
The hawksbill is a critically endangered animal which means it “faces a very high risk of extinction” in the wild.
The green turtle is classified as endangered and therefore “likely to become extinct”.
Sea turtles are an important part of the tourist experience on Barbados. However continued development is placing a severe strain on the species.
Man is not the only hazard. Predators like crabs and sea birds lie in wait along the shore as the hatchlings make their dash for freedom.
The turtles have been protected by law in Barbados since 1998.
They are at risk from plastic pollution, drowning in fishing nets and over-harvesting by humans for the shell, meat and eggs.
Nesting sites for Barbados turtles are also in decline as beachfront developments – seawalls, buildings and boulders – limit the area available for female turtles to lay their eggs.
Leatherbacks, which are also critically endangered, nest on the east coast between April and June, but are rarely seen in coastal waters.
Contact the Barbados Sea Turtle Project for more info. http://www.barbadosseaturtles.org/ or call the Turtle Hotline on 246 230 0142.
Bright lights cause turtle chaos
The Barbados Sea Turtle Project was informed later about the hatching.
It keeps records which are valuable aids to research and conservation. Anyone unsure about what to do should call their Turtle Hotline on 230 0142.
Nighttime lights from restaurants, hotels (and tennis courts) near the beach can disorientate the hatchlings.
Their instincts tell them to seek out the brightest horizon, which would be the sea under natural conditions. When inland lights confuse them, they may head away from the sea rather than towards it.
Life is difficult enough for the hatchlings. It is estimated that only one in 1,000 will survive to reproduce, which is not until they are least 25 years of age.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be seen in the coastal waters of Barbados, where they are often the highlight of a tourist’s stay.
Various boat tours offer “swim with turtle tours” and vsitors can sometimes see them in the water along the south coast, in particular at Worthing Beach and the artificial reef off Rockley.
And, of course, if you are a keen tennis player, you may well get a chance to rescue some turtles in between practising your backhand. Just ask Yannick.