Many sea turtles venture to North Cyprus every year to lay their eggs on the beaches around Alagadi. In August when the eggs hatch and the tiny turtles take their first glimpse of light out from beneath the sand, many curious tourists come to witness the spectacle.
New Cyprus Magazine was there when the talented volunteers from the organization SPOT (Society for the Protection of Turtles) dug up the hatchlings on Alagadi Turtle Beach.
The sea turtles lay their eggs in different places on the beach. The volunteers have the task of finding the locations and to clearly mark them. Then a metal mesh is added over the area to protect the eggs from being dug up by animals such as dogs and foxes. Then a white metal frame, called a dome cage, is fitted for extra protection and to mark the place so that people will see it and avoid stepping there. The volunteers do a very important job, it is crucial to whether the baby turtles will manage to survive.
A dome cage that protects the nest.
Two types of sea turtles venture to Alagadi to lay their eggs, the loggerhead and green sea turtle. The day we attended the excavation it was a green sea turtle’s nest we were going to excavate. At best, most turtles manage to crawl up through the sand, but some may have been left behind and need the help of the volunteers to surface from the sand.
The time has passed five in the afternoon when we arrive at the turtles nest.
The volunteers, who are young students from the UK, lift off the safety net and sit down on their knees to start digging in the sand. The knowledgeable volunteer Gabby says that green sea turtles always come back and lay their eggs at the spot where they themselves were born.
Suddenly we hear a little cheer in the crowd around the turtles nest. The volunteers have found the egg chamber deep down in the sand and a small turtle is gently lifted out. Gabby walks around with the hatchling so that all curious spectators will get a chance to look at it.
The volunteers find another four live turtles; they put them in a bucket of sand that they cover over with a towel. These turtles had remained in the nest for more than three days, and without the volunteers help, they had most likely never seen the light of day. The rest of the nest consists of hatched and un-hatched eggs. The hatched eggs were also taken out to be counted, so that the volunteers could calculate how many turtles managed to get out of the sand on their own. With the eggs that had not hatched there is often something wrong, so they take them up and examine each egg. If they are round and white, there is a chance that they can be buried in the sand again and hatched later.
Gabby says that turtles usually emerge from the nest and head down to the water at night, when the temperature is cooler. Temperature is also the factor which decides what sex the turtle becomes. Above a certain temperature determines the sex of the turtles to be female. In this nest it looks like most hatchlings turned out to be females.
They also measure the nest to determine if the female that laid the eggs was healthy. Healthy green turtles lay between 100-150 eggs.
The volunteers push the sand back down into the nest and together we start walking back to the Goat Shed, with us are the hatchlings in the bucket. Later in the evening, we will jointly release the baby turtles into the sea.
See SPOT on Facebook for more information and the relevant times for the excavation of the turtle nests.