It was sunny for a change the morning of 8 July when the call came through that a sea turtle had nested overnight in front of the Nomad hotel in Diani Beach. Cara, the Manager of the Colobus Trust, and Denise, a volunteer with experience dealing with sea turtles, jumped into the tuk-tuk and rode the 2 km to the hotel. A short walk down the beach and it was obvious where the nest was. The tracks were perfect – one set coming out of the water to the nest and the second set heading back to the sea. The nest was huge – definitely a large green turtle (Chelonia mydas), which is the largest and most common of the three species of sea turtles that nest regularly on our beaches.
It was also obvious from the location of the nest, that the elevation was far too low and that the nest would not survive the constant flooding by high tide. Turtle eggs can survive a bit of water, but if they sit in too much water for too long a period, development stops and the eggs fail to hatch. Thinking quickly, Cara and Denise decided to call in Captain Ali from the Msambweni Turtle and Marine Conservation Group (MTMCG), who readily agreed to come up to Diani Beach after working at Wasini Island and help relocate the nest.
Captain Ali arrived with Zitto, also from the MTMCG, and together with Denise, they probed the nest, looking for the egg chamber. Within a half hour of careful probing and digging, SUCCESS! The egg chamber was found and ‘pole pole’ 149 eggs were carefully removed and placed in the exact same orientation in a plastic bucket to be taken to a new nest on Msambweni beach.
After a bumpy ride with Captain Ali carefully balancing the bucket on his lap and Cara trying (not always successfully) to avoid the potholes, we reached at the beach in Msambweni. Captain Ali and Zitto identified the new location for this nest, which was much higher up in elevation and more isolated than we could find at any of the Diani beaches. Captain Ali and Zitto started digging to create a nest that was the exact size as the nest the turtle had created in Diani.
Then, pole pole, each egg was placed back in the hole with the original bottom eggs – now at the top of the bucket- going in first to be, once again, on the bottom of the egg chamber. The nest was then covered and the location recorded so that in 60 days, Captain Ali and Zitto can check whether the turtles have hatched. Once there are signs that they have hatched, the nest will be reopened and any unhatched eggs will be counted to determine the percentage hatching. Here’s hoping that this turtle’s hatching success will be100%!