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releasing sea turtles in Itacaré

March 25, 2010

During my ultra zen carnaval days in Itacaré, Bahia I had the chance to see the release of baby sea turtles. Now when I say release, I don’t mean that they were captured or anything, by all means. They were in their eggs, in a hole, where their mother laid them. A biologist from the TAMAR project, created by Brazil’s Environmental Institute for Marine Conservation, monitors their development and makes sure no one destroys their “nests”.

After the eggs hatched, the biologist walked towards the shore with a plastic container full of baby sea turtles, looking completely lost. Some of them already initiated movements towards freedom and tried to climb out of the container, while others had either given up or were simply sunbathing.

After a quick explanation about how the turtles lay their eggs, their life cycle and a shocking, jaw dropping statistic, we released the little animals on the sand.

Sea turtles have very sensitive and highly developed senses. They must have. With eyes of the size of a pin head, fragile flippers and length of a human’s palm, how can they find their way, lost in the infinity of sand and water? They must have keen vision, scent and hearing, and a great sense of direction to find their way towards the ocean.

As I observed the first tiny movements, fighting towards the friction they encountered between sand and water, I mentally placed those movements in context. I realized how long it took them to go forward and how far they had to move to get to the first waves, which would be a second obstacle. A lot of them were swept far on the sand once again as they reached shore. Like any other group of animals, some were faster than others; some had better direction than others.

What about their mothers? Where were they? Why were those little creatures alone? That was all I could think of, among other things.

The ones that successfully make it to the ocean and are able to surf the waves, all the way to deep sea, must find small pieces of seaweed to feed on. Anything that floats through water is interpreted as food: seaweed, microorganisms, leaves, plants, plastic bags, cellophane. So then comes one more stage in the fight for survival. If they happen to go for plastic bags they die asphyxiated or with the worst indigestion of their lives.

The jaw dropping statistic is that one in every one thousand turtles will reach adulthood.

So next time I think about a life surrounded and suffocated by objectives, ideas, longings, troubles that come and go; every time I think about the barrier between what I am and what I want to be, about the weary everyday, about sleepless nights, about empty pockets, about emptiness… I will remember the long, solitary journey of baby sea turtles, paddling with delicate flippers.

And if tears fall, I’ll remember them yet again. Sea turtles also cry. As they drink sea water, they absorb large quantities of salt. To get rid of the excess salt, which can be lethal, they eliminate salt through their tears.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 9:51 pm

    Tamar is such a phenomenal project. I have no doubt it is one of the most successful environmental non-profit initiatives in the country. What is particularly cool is the way they hired fisherman that used to eat those eggs to collect and protect them. Finding a way of giving a financial incentive to guarantee the conservation of the baby turtles is the only possible solution, I guess.

  2. March 26, 2010 3:53 pm

    Oh those poor little babies…this entry just kinda broke my heart.

  3. airebear permalink
    March 26, 2010 8:24 pm

    So fascinating, great post! I´m so sad I never made it to Itacare as I had planned, I would have loved to see that.

  4. March 27, 2010 6:12 pm

    What a neat post! I love sea turtles – nice to learn about this project. Those little guys definitely have a tough life; I like how you are able to use that for inspiration if your own life.

  5. March 29, 2010 2:07 am

    I have a small turtle raised in my plastic basin. he has everyday food to eat but doesnt have freedom, i adopted from my former roomate çoz she didnt feed him… i want to give him freedom but in fear that he’ll die of hunger… the Chinese called him ‘Brailian turtle” because he has 2 big red parts on both sides of his face. (i actually have no idea of how a ‘Brailian turtle” should look like) ^_^
    I love him so much, he’s like my closest friend, so now his name is Titou Zhao… hahaha

  6. March 29, 2010 7:08 pm

    Omg, now you have ME crying, this was such an awesome post!!! The pics of the baby turtles are beyond precious and I just love the lesson you’ve learned from them. I will always remember this now too. Obrigada! 🙂

  7. March 31, 2010 6:26 pm

    What a great post. I think I feel a tear in my eye. That must have been so wonderful to observe! But I had no idea so few survive to adulthood…that’s so sad. I love your photos. Thanks for sharing the story of these cute little turtles!

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