Happy Day to you all! You might remember the April 25 announcement of the first Leatherback Sea Turtle nest on St. John since 2016. And then a second in May…Both at some of your favorite North Shore Beaches! Well, in late June, in the wee morning hours, those little hatchlings made their way from the shores of St. John to the sea under the watchful eyes of the Friends Virgin Island National Park Sea Turtle Program managers and volunteers. And I imagine we will be seeing the second set of babies very soon!
At dawn on June 30, 2022, forty five baby Leatherback Turtles scampered to the sea!
As mentioned previously, this is a rare occurrence in modern days. In the days of the Danish rule of the US Virgin Islands, Trunk was named so because of the immense amount of Leatherbacks that nested on the now popular tourist destination. In more recent times, however, the population of these mighty beasts using our shores as their nesting habitats have dwindled. According to Leatherback.org, the females of this turtle species will return to their natal site to lay their own eggs but will avoid places where there is light or debris in order to find the perfect site for her soon-to-be hatchlings.
After 15-25 years, Leatherback females will reach maturity and return to their natal grounds to lay their eggs and repeat this process every two to five years throughout their lifespan. From the time they hatch, until they reach maturity, they return to protected areas of the open ocean and they are difficult to track….
About 55-60 days after the female lays eggs, hatchling turtles emerge from their nests, head to the sea and follow ocean currents to pelagic nursery habitats, where they search for food and seek refuge from predators. Scientists refer to this time period as “the lost years”, since finding hatchlings and juveniles to study in the open ocean is difficult. – Leatherback.org
So, according to this, we can hope to see the mothers of these hatchlings returning to nest once again within a few years’ time. And, hopefully, these wee ones will make their ways safely through the open ocean for the next two decades and return to these shores to leave their own eggs in a safe space to be overseen by the Friends VINP Sea Turtle Program!
In other turtle news, two Hawksbill nests have been recorded on St. John so far this season as well! The Hawksbill Turtles return to our beaches, the ones where they were born themselves, in order to nest. But, the ones we see most frequently swimming in the seas surrounding St. John are the Green Sea Turtles.
The Hawksbill Turtles remain an endangered species and it is of utmost importance that their nests are recorded and protected, ensuring safe passage to the sea upon the hatching of the babies. If you are visiting over the next few months, and you spot something in the sand that might be turtle tracks, contact the Turtle Team immediately via email or phone (340-643-8560)!
Stay posted over the next few weeks for the report on the second set of hatchlings emerging from St. John’s North Shore!
Cover photo courtesy of Friends of VINP…If you love the St. John sea turtles, visit their website for more information and resources!