One of my favorite marine animals is a sea turtle. Whenever I see a sea turtle under or above the water, it is a special, magical moment. They seem to fly effortlessly through the water. Regularly they come, depending on their activity on the surface for a breath of air.
They have been around for millions of years.
We are so fortunate to have several species of sea turtles on Bonaire: The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) are regular The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacae) are occasionally present in the area, but seen only rarely.
I have been actively involved with Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire an organization which has been protecting sea turtles since 1991. Their mission statement is to ensure protection and recovery of Bonaire’s sea turtle population throughout their range.
From April to January is nesting season. During the nesting season staff and volunteers patrol the beaches mostly used by turtles, recording signs of nesting and hatching and monitoring the safety of the nests. Around two months after the turtle has laid the eggs the nest will hatch. I was very lucky to be present for a hatching.
Bonaire and Klein Bonaire have a very good habitat for marine sea turtles. The island’s extensive near-shore coral reefs, pockets of shady beaches and rich sea grass beds provide endangered marine sea turtles with quality foraging, breeding and nesting grounds.
Since the early 90’s, we’ve been tracking turtle nesting activity and have found that between 60% and 70% of Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) choose the beaches on this island to nest. We also see Green Sea turtles and at the far north end of the island (point) we have Leatherbacks come in to nest.
Most turtle nests are laid on the beaches that lie along the Northeast coast of Klein Bonaire, on and around "No Name" beach. The importance of this area for turtle nesting helped the effort to purchase the island from its private owners in 1999, spearheaded by the Foundation Preservation Klein Bonaire.
Each turtle lays from 120 to 160 eggs per nest. Baby turtles hatch after about two months and emerge on their own before running towards the sea. These hatchlings face many predators on land and in the sea, such as ghost crabs, fish and birds.
Interesting turtle facts
- Turtles evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. These ancient reptiles have lived on earth since the time of the dinosaurs.
- Female turtles typically lay up to six 'clutches' of over 100 eggs.
- The temperature of the sand around a nest determines whether baby turtles, known as 'hatchlings', will be male or female. Colder temperatures produce males, whereas warmer temperatures produce females.
- Hatchling turtles always return to the beaches where they were born to nest.
- Baby turtles hatch from their nests at night and race to the sea by moonlight. Lights near the beach should be turned off during the summer so turtles do not go in the wrong direction.
- It may take decades for green and loggerhead turtles to mature in the wild.
- In some parts of the world, loggerhead and green turtles are hunted for meat, and their eggs are taken from nesting beaches. Today, both species are considered endangered.
- Sea turtles may be able to live for up to 100 years.
- Turtles drink saltwater and get rid of extra salt through special glands in their eyes.