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A glimpse of Samson the Leatherback hatchling

By Heather Bryan 2 years ago
Categories Jalova

I have been to the jungle before so on coming to Jalova, Tortuguero National Park I was already used to the wondrous beauty of jungle life. Prepared for the defiant lines of leaf cutter ants, resident monkeys, buzzing humming birds and waking early to a choir of Montezuma Oropendola birds. What I wasn’t used to, and what I really missed on my last jungle experience was the coast.

We do a lot of beach walking at Jalova and our main research focus on the beach is on the nesting of marine turtles. During night walks I have already encountered a Green turtle and a Hawksbill turtle, a relatively rare species in this area. The other main species is the Leatherback turtle. Leatherback nesting season recently finished and it is time to carry out excavations of some of the nests. The aim is to discover the fate of each egg within the nest. How many have developed and hatched? Have some been predated by invertebrates? Or has the nest been destroyed by the tide?

A lot of effort goes into making sure excavations occur after the hatchlings have emerged; however occasionally there will be some stragglers who have hatched but are taking their time to emerge from their protective underground home. This is how I met Samson the hatchling. Our group was gently digging into the sand when our national scholar, Walter saw some movement. Samson the Leatherback poked his nose out and flapped his disproportionate front flippers wildly, instinctively trying to reach the surface. So as not to disturb the natural proceeding of hatchlings, we gently scooped some sand back so that Samson could emerge when he chose, not when we decided. If he emerges at the wrong time, the sand may be too hot or there might be predators in the area preventing him from reaching the ocean. Not many eggs develop all the way into adulthood but based on Samson’s fighting flippers I have a suspicion he’ll be one of the few. Perhaps he’ll be back in years to come to reproduce and pass on his fighting genes.