Yesterday, for the first time ever, I got to see a newly hatched baby Hawksbill sea turtle! Let’s call him Waldo.
Waldo has a rough life ahead of him. With only approximately 1,000:1 odds of making it to adulthood, he is going to have to be one lucky little hatchling to make it. Poor little Waldo had a bit of a tough start at first. He must have been one of the last of the little turtles to hatch (or he was not strong enough to dig himself out of the nest) and he was not able to make it to the surface with all of his siblings. He most likely would have died in the nest but as chance would have it, we happened to excavate that particular nest just in time to find Waldo. A few of his other siblings were not so fortunate. We gave Waldo some time to recover after being dug out of the sand and let him get used to his surroundings. Afterwards we took him down to the sea. Releasing that little guy was amazing. Watching him swim out into the big blue sea was a moment that I will never forget.
If indeed Waldo is a male, that would have been the only time he will be on land ever in his life. If Waldo happens to be a female, we may not see her again for many years, if and when she comes back to lay her own nest at approximately 30 years old. Growing from a teeny tiny turtle hatchling into a massive adult Hawksbill will not be easy. First Waldo will have to get past the crabs, shore-birds, and eels that would all love to snack on him in the shallow coastal waters. Then he will have to find a nice patch of seaweed or sea grass to float around in for some time, while he learns how to be a turtle. He will also have to learn to be wary of humans and to steer clear of pollution and make sure he does not get tangled in any stray nets. Unfortunately these creatures are now listed as Critically Endangered; regrettably, humans are one of the main reasons for their decline. Their beautiful shells are a target for poachers and sometimes they accidentally get caught in fishing nets. But hopefully for every person who would be willing to kill a turtle for its shell, there are many more willing to aid in their conservation. If we all work together we can help save this species. Then hopefully, for years and years to come, lucky GVI volunteers like me will be able to hold a Hawksbill hatchling and release it into the sea.
There are so many things that the hatchling Hawksbill turtle named Waldo must conquer before he can grow into a beautiful adult sea turtle. Hopefully with a bit of luck and a lot of courage this little guy will make it all the way to adulthood. But for now we will just have to wonder, where’s Waldo?
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