Turtle Tryst | Night & Day | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Turtle Tryst

OK, nature lovers, you've all seen a mama sea turtle lay her eggs on Animal Planet, right? Didn't you feel those pangs of sympathy when the voice-over told you that not only are the nests themselves vulnerable, but that very few of those cute little baby turtles even survive the scramble for the surf? Well, thanks to the turtle release program at Anne Kolb Nature Center, you can do your part to safeguard the little tykes.

Now in its fifth year, "Sea Turtles and Their Babies" is hosted by the nature center but administered by Broward County's Sea Turtle Conservation Program. The program is dedicated to managing the breeding activities of the mostly endangered sea turtles that make the beaches of Broward their nesting grounds. It includes protecting the mothers, their eggs, and the turtle babies, at least until they enter their ocean home.

Evenings with the sea turtles start with an hour-long slide presentation and lecture. The species of sea turtles found in SoFla, their habitat requirements, breeding and nesting, past exploitation and current management, and problems the reptiles still face are all covered.

And then the fun begins.

Participants drive to an undisclosed area of Hollywood beach where they are met by a conservator with a bucket. In the bucket are 40 or 50 squirming, wriggling turtle hatchlings, most likely hatched that day. When the audience is gathered in a cordoned-off area, the baby turtles are unceremoniously dumped onto the sand and take off for the Atlantic as fast as they can scurry. How do they know to go toward the sea? It seems it's not the sea itself but the light over the ocean that draws them. If there's too much light in the vicinity of the beach they can get confused and head in the wrong direction, so the naturalists sometimes have to shine a flashlight ahead of the hatchlings to reorient them.

Although only one in 1000 to 10,000 successfully makes it to a long life, you're doing your bit by at least protecting the hatchlings from raccoons, crabs, gulls, and other predators on shore.

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Tomi Curtis

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