Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turtles of Bequia

If you ever find yourself on the delightful little Caribbean island of Bequia, you must make the side trip to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.  Founded in 1995 by skin diving fisherman Orton King - the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary has but one goal:  to conserve the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle.

Under threat from hunting for it's meat, eggs and exquisite shell - hawksbill turtle populations worldwide are dwindling at an alarming rate.  Enter Orton "Brother" King.  Mr. King's journey to conservation began modestly by collecting a few small hatchlings and attempting to rear them in a plastic tub.  Since those successful humble beginnings, he has released over 2,000 turtles back into the ocean.

The turtle sanctuary now has it's own free-standing building with about fifteen salt water ponds inside.  "Brother" King collects and rears the sea turtles during the most vulnerable years of their live (0-3) and for the first six months, feeds them a diet of canned tuna fish before graduating to small fish.  When the turtles mature to about three years of age, he marks them by drilling a small hole in the back of their shell, and releases them back into the wild.  Divers and snorkelers throughout the Grenadines have spotted King's turtles, proof positive his efforts are not in vain.
Orton King (pictured in Red) explaining his efforts to a couple turtle enthusiasts.
Some facts about the Hawksbill Turtle:

  • Hawksbill turtles are "smaller" than most sea turtles.  Their shells reach 45 inches and their maximum weight is about 150 pounds.
  • They are found in tropical waters throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • They are normally found near healthy reefs as opposed to deep, vast ocean stretches.
  • Hawksbill's are omnivorous and feed on sponges, small fish, marine algea, mollusks, jellyfish and crustaceans.
  • While their hard shells protect them from most predators, they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, octopus and humans.  Human impact is currently their greatest threat.
  • Like other turtles, Hawksbills make incredible oceanic migrations travelling thousands of miles each year.  It is believed they use the earth's magnetic pull to navigate the world's oceans.
  • While they breathe air, they can spend hours underwater at a time.
  • Adult females return to land to lay their eggs, most of the time they return to the very same beach they were hatched from.
  • The average life span of the hawksbill sea turtle is 30-50 years.
A 'salt pond' which is housing a few dozen baby hawksbill's.
A nearly mature Hawksbill, this one liked her neck rubbed.
Sea turtles are magnificent creatures and, like their friends the dolphin, they bring instant joy to anyone who is able to see them in the wild.  If you find yourself in Bequia, be sure to make a quick stop a the Old Hegg Turtle sanctuary and help support these incredible creature's survival in the world's oceans. 

Brittany & Scott


Lorry said...

Turtles are my favourite animal. Best experience was SCUBA diving with green turtles once.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,
Dick and I were just back at the turtle sanctuary....we were on the Sea Cloud last week. We met you on Diamant over New Year's. Just read the blog about the shark....scary stuff! Glad to hear he wasn't hungry.
Take care,
Jan Z.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...