As we enter the Easter season and its theme of rebirth and renewal, a season with a similar message has begun in the animal kingdom. That season – when turtles return yearly to the shores of Trinidad and Tobago to lay eggs – traditionally runs from March to August. Already, the first few leatherback and hard-shell turtles have begun returning to our country’s “turtle” beaches. With their return come the annual reminders from Turtle Village Trust and LNG producer Atlantic about how to protect these endangered species and ensure their sustainability.
Camille Salandy, Manager of Sustainability and Corporate Communications at Atlantic said that given the turtles’ endangered speciesstatus, the annual reminders never get old.
“Thankfully, we see more and more people sharing Atlantic’s passion for Trinidad and Tobago’s turtles – passion for their preservation and for the privilege we all have to go to the various turtle beach communities and see these fascinating creatures up close and personal,” Salandy said. “However, there is always someone new who has not heard the message about protecting the turtles. This is why Atlantic continues to partner with the Turtle Village Trust on several initiatives that help monitor and conserve the turtles and increase awareness about their special role in Trinidad and Tobago and the global marine ecosystem.”
Atlantic sponsors the National Sea Turtle Tagging and Monitoring Programme, an initiative of the Turtle Village Trust which gathers information about this country’s population of nesting leatherbacks, hawksbill and green turtles. Atlantic also sponsors the Nest Relocation and Hatchery Programme and in 2016 partnered with the Turtle Village Trust and the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guides Association to launch the Geo-Tagging Project, the first-ever initiative to use satellite telemetry to track the migratory patterns of hard shell sea turtles from Trinidad and Tobago.
The Turtle Village Trust (TVT) is the NGO established in 2006 to support the work of local turtle conservation community groups, such as the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guides Association, Nature Seekers (based in Matura), Fishing Pond Turtle Conservation Group and SOS Tobago. With help from corporate sponsors such as Atlantic, TVT and its partners help to monitor, research and conserve local sea turtle populations, and also to develop ecotourism opportunities in the communities where the turtles nest every year.
Kathryn Audroing, Research Manager of the Turtle Village Trust’s National Sea Turtle Conservation Project said that through the work of the Turtle Village Trust and its representative community volunteer groups, Trinidad and Tobago had embraced its responsibility of environmental stewardship of the turtles for the future.
“The Turtle Village Trust is part of the global mission to conserve sea turtles, and we do this through our work in monitoring the nestings, conducting the ‘turtle census’ and tagging the turtles with satellite transmitters to track their migration patterns,” Audroing said. “We also work with our partners to promote the critical need for people to be careful around the turtles when they are nesting, for during the nesting process they areat their most vulnerable. We also want to highlight that people should be doubly careful during the hatching season when the hatchlings begin emerging from their eggs on the beaches to return to the sea.”
For more information about turtle tours this season, contact the Turtle Village Trust at 667-8741, or the turtle conservation community groups at 469-1288, 670-4257, 668-7337, 359-9939 or 328-7351.
The DOs and DONTs of Turtle Watching
|DO go with trained guides.
Always go with a trained guide who can guarantee your safety and that of any sea turtles.
|DON’T stand or sit on sea turtles.
A sea turtle’s shell is not as strong as it looks. Shells have soft bones and once these bones are broken, the turtle will die.
|DO remain quiet and still.
Move around slowly and speak softly in order to keep noise disturbance to a minimum. Maintain a distance of at least 10 meters from a nesting turtle unless invited to take a closer look by a trained guide.
|DON’T drive on beaches.
Vehicles can compress nests buried under the sand or crush hatchlings crawling to sea.
|DO use cameras with infrared lenses.
Flash photography can disorient nesting females or hatchlings as they crawl on the beach. Cameras with infrared lenses can be used at any time.
|DON’T use bright lights or loud speakers.
Artificial lights and loud music may discourage females from nesting and disorient hatchlings. Beachfront owners should also shield or switch off all lights illuminating the beach.
|DO encourage others to obey the rules.
If you see anyone endangering sea turtles, call the police or the following:
|DON’T leave litter behind.
Be sure not to leave your beach litter behind. Collect trash that you find along beaches, especially plastics. Do not burn or bury any debris on beaches.