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A rare visitor makes a unique appearance

A rare visitor makes a unique appearance

Niël Terblanché

BEING at the right place at the right time always leads to special encounters with wildlife and meeting a mother green turtle after laying a batch of eggs on a desolate beach on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia is a very unique and rare experience.

 

In the past researchers and scientists were of the opinion that the cold weather that prevails for large parts of the year was not conducive for sea turtle nesting, but the green turtle that occurs between Swakopmund and the Kunene River mouth that form the border between Namibia and Angola was found to successfully nest on the beaches that rarely gets a visit from humans.

 

The richness of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) off the coast of Namibia is one of the highest regions of marine productivity in the world and therefore home to a large variety of marine species like the green turtle, the Nile soft shell turtle and occasionally the leatherback turtle.

 

A characteristic of the eco system in the area of the Kunene River mouth in northern Namibia is the high biomass of jellyfishes a food source for several species of the marine turtles.

 

Video: A female green turtle on her way back to the Atlantic Ocean after laying a clutch of eggs on one of the desolate beaches of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. – Footage: Courtesy of Johan van Rooyen

 

The random meeting between human and green turtle occurred north of Möwe Bay where no road exists.

 

The female green turtle can lay up to seven clutches of eggs and clutches consist of between 100 and 200 eggs. The female returns at intervals of 10 to 20 days, on two or three occasions. To lay each clutch of eggs after digging the nest in the soft beach sand with her hind legs. Nesting occurs throughout the year and females move on to the beach by moving both forelegs together as if swimming, called ‘humping’.

 

Most females lay their eggs between late spring and late autumn. Once the eggs have been laid, the female covers the nest with sand or plant material and walks away and doesn’t return. The heat from the sun will hatch the eggs and hatchlings have to dig their way up to the surface, find food and protect themselves on their own.

 

The hatchling turtles are preyed upon by a variety of birds and mammals that head to the beach in the hatching season. Certain species of sea turtle along with tortoises can live to 100 years or more.

 

The mother turtle has just finished laying a clutch of eggs and was on her way back to the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Johan van Rooyen not only made a video of the rare meeting but also made sure that tourists on self drive tours along the Skeleton Coast would not disturb or damage the nest. The eggs will hatch in about two months’ time.

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