It is hard to fathom any creature going extinct, especially one that has been on Earth for more than 150 million. Sadly, that’s the fate several species of sea turtles currently face. With the threat of extinction looming, the birth of these endangered creatures is something to celebrate now more than ever. Home to three different species of sea turtles, St. Lucia and Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa are fortunate enough to serve as a birthplace for these fascinating reptiles. Bearing witness to their miraculous births is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
About Turtle-Hatching Season
Of the three species of sea turtles that nests on the beaches of St. Lucia, the World Conservation Union (ICUN) has classified one as endangered and the other two as critically endangered. Sea turtles are clearly very special, and their births, even more so. A marvel to behold, the sea turtle hatchings take place on St. Lucia’s beaches every year from March through November. The beaches near our resort are regularly the site of this momentous event.
During turtle-hatching season, Coconut Bay partners with a conservation organization called WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network). One of the WIDECAST’s Project’s primary objectives is to strengthen existing marine managed areas (MMAs), also called marine protected areas. That mission includes overseeing the hatching of sea turtles to ensure the hatchlings’ survival.
At the start of hatching season, representatives from WIDECAST mark and monitor the turtles’ nests. They also attend and supervise the hatchings and releases into the ocean. The sea turtles’ dwindling population can use all the help it can get — the average survival rate of a hatchling is a mere 10 percent. In fact, in an effort to sustain the sea turtles, the island of St. Lucia has passed several laws promoting their conservation, including laws against interfering with nesting activity.
Meet the Sea Turtles of St. Lucia
Of the seven existing species of sea turtles, three hatch on St. Lucia’s shores: the Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green turtle. We’ve also had a few sightings of the Loggerhead species in our waters farther north, but they are extremely rare.
The Leatherback, the largest of the species, can grow to an astonishing length of more than six feet and a weight more than a ton. This is a far cry from their size and weight at birth. Leatherback hatchlings are just two or three inches long, have front flippers as long as their bodies, and have distinctive white stripes on their back ridges.
While Leatherbacks nest in tropical areas, they may migrate as far north as Canada during other months. Unlike other turtles’ shells, the Leatherback’s shell isn’t plated. Instead, their shells are a single unit with five vertical ridges. Typically, Leatherbacks nest from March through August.
The colorful Hawksbill species is smaller, reaching lengths of 3.5 feet and weights of up to 180 pounds. When Hawksbills hatch, they weigh just a half an ounce and have a one- or two-inch, heart-shaped carapace, or shell. You can probably guess how the Hawksbill got its name — the front of these turtles’ faces closely resembles a beak, or bill. That feature coupled with their pointy heads and V-shaped, toothless jaws make them look like hawks, accounting for the other half of their name.
These turtles have a distinctive tortoiseshell pattern on their carapace that is so attractive that they were hunted for their shells almost to extinction. The peak hatching season for Hawksbills is May through October.
The Green Turtle
The seagrass- and seaweed-eating Green turtle grows up to three feet long and 350 pounds. Because their carapaces can be several colors — including yellow, black, green, brown, and gray — their appearances are remarkably diverse. When they are born, though, they are either all dark brown or mostly black. Green turtles are the only herbivorous species of sea turtle. Interestingly, they are carnivores as babies but become herbivores once they grow to eight to ten inches. Hatching season for Green turtles is April through September.
Tips for St. Lucia Sea-Turtle-Lovers
The St. Lucia Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has published guidelines geared toward protecting the island’s sea turtles.
Join us This Hatching Season
In 2016, Coconut Bay will add a Turtle Watching program to our SCOUTS booklet and to the regular schedule for our CocoLand Kidz Klub. In this program, we will teach kids the importance of protecting the sea turtles and their nests. We will also share fun tips and facts about how experts estimate when hatchlings will emerge and head back toward the ocean.
During the day, our guests can witness firsthand the hatching and releasing process on our shores. It is an amazing experience that can be appreciated by everyone! Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa invites you to share this unforgettable experience with us as we do our part in sustaining the lives of these incredible sea creatures.
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