36. The sea

Dawn is breaking but it is still quite dark. The hatchlings have finally reached the sea and instinctively swim away from the shore. Predators are still present and a real danger to the survival of the hatchlings.

Extract from a lecture by Lily Venizelos of MEDASSET:

The hatchlings mostly escape the attentions of the gulls because the nests usually open before sunrise. Ghost crabs are not very common and are not a threat. The journey made from the nest to the sea may also be of biological importance for imprinting the characteristics of the sand in the body of the young. For that reason man should not pick up a young sea turtle and carry it from the nest to the sea.

Where these young are going to in such a hurry, nobody knows.

For the first weeks of its life, the young sea turtle is unable to remain submerged for very long, nor can it swim fast enough to evade its enemies. For this reason it is thought the few which survive these hazards spend the first months of their lives clinging to rafts of seaweed which drift away from the coast. There they remain protected from most enemies and nourished by small creatures which live in the seaweed. Until they become yearlings, these baby turtles are at the mercy of the sea currents. The hatchlings may take 20-30 years to mature and only 1 in 1000 hatchlings will survive. Some conservationists suggest that these odds have been reduced to 1 in 10,000 !

In 20-30 years, the surviving female loggerhead turtle will return to its natal beach to complete the life-cycle.

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