We arrived early last Sunday morning to witness some Kemp’s Ridley turtle hatchlings waddle to the ocean to begin their amazing five day journey to the gulf stream. While the turtles were fun, it was the people who caught my eye.
Rangers were not sure of the odds for survival- they estimated between one in a hundred and one in a thousand. However, volunteers were on hand to insure that none of the hatchlings fell prey to a group of ever watchful birds who clustered around the release site in hopes of snagging what one ranger referred to as, “the Oreo of the sea.”
The park rangers worked hard to ensure that the spectators had a good experience as well. They carried individual turtles around the audience so we could see them close up.
The rangers were also kind enough to take pictures of the turtles up close, carrying around handfuls of cell phones to accomplish the task.
The hatchlings must cross a long stretch of beach to meet the sea. This is because they need to imprint on the beach. When females imprint, they return some fifteen to sixteen years later to lay their eggs.
When these baby turtles return to Padre Island National Seashore in the summer of 2030, I hope they will be greeted by a group of dedicated volunteers and Park Rangers who will take care of their hatchlings and see them on their journey to the sea.
I am so grateful to the Park Rangers and volunteers for their work on this endeavor. The imprint that they leave on our world is much greater than the sum of turtles they protect. You can follow the Padre Island National Seashore or the Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science and Discovery on Facebook. Let’s do all we can to support their efforts.