• By Claire Trickett
  • 23 May 2017

Turtle whisperers

In celebration of World Turtle Day, learn how these endangered hatchlings brave it to sea for the first time…

Consider for just a moment that the vast oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface; that 94% of life on Earth is aquatic; and that between 70 and 80% of the world’s oxygen is created by marine plants. These facts alone highlight the dire importance of marine conservation and the shared responsibility we all have to protect our oceans and its inhabitants.

Here at &Beyond, our company ethos of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, and Care of the People has become an intuitive part of the way in which we operate and has allowed us to positively influence more than 9 million acres of protected wildlife land.

Equally important to our core operations, and perhaps our fourth ‘C’, is Care of the Oceans and hence why we have expanded our focus on wildlife conservation to include the much-needed protection and sustainability of our seas with our Oceans Without Borders initiative.

With three island properties now in our portfolio (&Beyond Mnemba Island in Tanzania, and both &Beyond Benguerra Island and &Beyond Vamizi Island in Mozambique), &Beyond remains fully committed to marine conservation.

Located off the warm, tropical shores of Zanzibar, &Beyond Mnemba Island is a private barefoot beach paradise boasting just ten luxury beach bandas. A secluded oasis, it is one of only two protected nesting sites in Zanzibar for the endangered green sea turtle.

Born a mere 5 cm (2 in) in length, these magnificent creatures can grow up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in length and can weigh over 300 kg (700 lb). Sadly, their conservation status remains endangered and our island teams continue to do whatever they can to help the species escape extinction.

The &Beyond Mnemba team has been recording data since 1998 and in those 19 years, well over 60 000 green turtles have been born on Mnemba Island. Each year, an average of 38 nests are laid on the island, with more than 100 hatchlings born per nest; the record-breaking nest had an impressive 149 hatchlings.

Boasting Mozambique’s largest recorded population of green sea turtles and one of East Africa’s longest standing turtle monitoring programmes, &Beyond Vamizi Island is also a significant breeding site for this threatened species.

The conservation teams on both islands patrol the beaches daily to monitor and record any new turtle activity. Each turtle is carefully tagged with a unique number and data regarding their movements and the number of eggs laid is meticulously recorded.

The turtles often lay their eggs below the high-tide mark, putting their entire nests at risk of getting completely washed away once the tides roll in. When this happens, our teams have to intervene and delicately relocate the nests to higher ground.

Approximately 50 to 60 days later, the tiny hatchlings will feistily emerge from the nest, and the conservation teams will continue to keep a close eye on them, ensuring their safety until they reach the ocean.

Our guests and conservation teams alike always look forward to watching each clutch of undeniably cute baby green turtles escape the nest and brave the long, arduous journey all the way to the sea. Although surprisingly strong and fiercely determined, the hatchlings face a 90% hatching rate, an estimated 75% survival rate on their trek to the sea and only a 1% chance of making it to adulthood. It is, therefore, no surprise that the females produce such a high number of eggs.

In a completely natural, unassisted hatching, anywhere from 25 to 30% of the hatchlings will be taken out by predators on the beach (birds, crabs, lizards, etc.) before they even make it to the ocean. However, on &Beyond Mnemba and Vamizi Islands, staff and guests ‘escort’ the hatchlings by walking alongside them and warding off any nearby predators to ensure each and every turtle successfully make it to sea, thereby increasing their potential to reach adulthood by a small margin.

Here’s hoping these courageous little creatures can continue to escape the nest and extinction, and remain a species that will enchant our children and grandchildren for generations to come.

To conclude the story, here are two fantastic videos, one produced by National Geographic and the other, the Cradle of Coral documentary, produced by world-renowned National Geographic photographer and film producer Mattias Klum. Enjoy … and may they remind you of the magnificent beauty of our oceans and their intriguing inhabitants.


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