Video Credit: CEN/Mathieu Alonso
This adorable footage shows cute endangered baby turtles swimming around at a rehabilitation centre after being rescued.
After being helped to hatch from the nests of their mum Emma, several baby turtles were taken into care by the Kelonia turtle protection centre where they are being fed, weighed and monitored.
They will be released back into the Indian Ocean after several days of care to join their siblings.
Other footage also shows a rare endangered baby turtle hatching and taking its first dip in the ocean after conservationists rescued it from under hard sand.
The video was shot on the western coast of Reunion Island, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, and shows a baby green turtle hatching and swimming off into the ocean after its mother laid some 400 eggs, although many did not hatch.
It was so hot that most of the new baby turtles appear to have mostly turned out to be females. The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the heat of sand while incubating the eggs.
The hatching has been closely monitored by Kelonia, a local sea turtle observatory and sanctuary located on the island’s western coast in Saint-Leu, and they are now going to analyse the data they have collected.
There are only two endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) that come back to the island every two or three years to lay their eggs.
The baby is one of 400 new offspring to have hatched from a total of five of Emma’s nests, the last of which has just hatched. The other turtle is called Gaby.
Temperature affects the gender of a baby turtle, according to Stephane Ciccione, the director of Kelonia, who said: “The sex of the baby turtles depends on the temperature of incubation, if the temperatures increase with the climatic changes, we risk having a big shift between the number of males and females. The hotter it is, the more females there will be.
“If the temperature is over 35 degrees Celsius, this can be fatal. Over 29 degrees Celsius, you will end up with mostly female turtles, as seems to be the case here. Below 29 degrees, and they will be mostly male.”
Emma’s babies are expected to be mostly females due to the unusually high temperatures on the island. However, this is still great news, according to Ciccione, who told Central European News (CEN) that having lots of females is important as they are the most threatened because they have to scale the beaches to lay their eggs, leaving them vulnerable.
He said that it took a big team of volunteers, as well as their paid staff, to make sure that nothing happened to Emma.
Staff and the volunteers who live on the island had been taking turns every night since November to make sure humans and predators such as dogs did not disturb her.
He also said that the last hatching season was a disaster for Gaby, because bad weather caused flooding and four of her five nests were almost completely destroyed.
This year seems to have been much better, although Mathieu Alonso, who filmed the footage, told CEN: “Mr Ciccione had to dig the last survivors out by hand because this hatching did not go well.
“The turtles were stuck under a layer of hard sand that was formed following intense rains just after they had been laid on 20th January. There were volunteers who had been there for several nights.”
Ciccione added they kept a record of the temperatures in the nest adding: “This data will allow us to better understand the temperature in the nests, where we put thermometers, and it will allow us to have a greater understanding of survival rates and incubation times.”
Ciccione explained that they had also fitted Emma with an electronic tracking device that can send data when she surfaces so they can better understand her behaviour and where she is travelling.
Kelonia shared the news of the last of the baby turtles hatching and the footage on social media. Netizens were in awe, with ‘Carole Scherer Bourquin’ saying: “This is really wonderful! Fly, fly, fly little turtle!” while ‘Maryse Durand’ said: “I would really like to see this, it must be truly magical!”
Kelonia is a sea turtle observatory and an environmental awareness centre spread out over around 1,500 square metres of seawater-fed aquariums, with educational and scientific premises and 1,500 square metres of outdoor space.
Kelonia participates in research programmes to protect sea turtles and their habitats in Reunion Island and the Indian Ocean. The observatory has forged partnerships with teams around the world.
Green turtles are an endangered species according to the IUCN’s red list.
Kelonia also shared this picture of a turtle spotted with a fishing line attached to it. Mr Ciccione told CEN that one of their observers had sent him the picture, but that they had not managed to catch the turtle to remove the fishing line attached to it.
He said that the number one threat to the endangered species was “the ingestion of plastic and fishing lines”, a phenomenon which has been “amplified” over the last few years and which seriously threatens all marine life.
Picture Credit: CEN/Mathieu Alonso