Calabash Caye A Popular Turtle Destination Again?
Earlier this year, in June, the peak of the turtle nesting season, UB student and ERI volunteer, Areli Perez documented 9 sea turtle crawls on the beach of Calabash Caye. Unfortunately, none were confirmed to be nesting sites. The last documented nest on the island was of a Hawksbill sea turtle back in 2010. After years of monitoring, it appeared as if sea turtles had lost their affinity to Calabash Caye as a nesting area.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Network has designated the ERI as the contact organization for turtle nesting activity at the Turneffe Atoll, Belize’s newest marine reserve. This means that all nesting activity identified/observed within the atoll is reported to the ERI. Apart from filling this capacity, the ERI puts out its own monitoring efforts at Turneffe, particularly in the areas of the Calabash Caye Marine Field Station.
Finally on November 11th, 2013, a caretaker of an establishment on the island reported the find of a possible turtle nest on the southern end. Upon further inspection, the first nest in 3 years was confirmed near the water’s edge under the shade of a small coconut tree.
An excavation of the nest revealed several broken shells and complete eggs. From the status of the eggs, the team determined that 93% of the eggs had hatched; a very good hatchling success for such a late nest. The nest was determined to be that of a Loggerhead sea turtle based on the four hatchlings found. The marine team suspects that the eggs were laid in early September which is quite late in the year in terms of usual patterns of nesting behaviours for sea turtles.
This finding provides the evidence that will support ongoing monitoring efforts. It is also a demonstration of the strength of the collaborative work between the ERI and the Turneffe community.
It is worth noting that earlier this year; another two nests were confirmed at the atoll. These were both found at Black Bird Caye located north of Calabash Caye.