Yertle the Turtle

October 5, 2009

When I was growing up we had many pet turtles. Probably the most boring pet – turtles are not fuzzy, not affectionate, make no eye contact, no sound. But as my boys were growing up the turtle was idealized as mutant ninjas and the possibilities changed. Seriously, though, I have seen lone turtles while sailing and snorkeling in the caribbean. They are graceful, magnificent and lonely creatures with hard-wired sense of direction and purpose.

In this video (it starts slowly but has an exciting middle and end) we see a family of 111 baby loggerhead turtles hatching and making a beeline for the ocean. It’s the only time they are together. No turtle family reunions. They hit the ocean and they are off and on their own dining on small sea mammals and reportedly growing up to 800 lbs (364 kg) and 3.5 feet (1.1 m) long. Named for their disproportionately large head, they are also the state reptile of South Carolina. When they first are swept into the coean they paddle for days, then they float in the currents and eat what floats by. As they mature they are important consumers of sea grass- mowing it down and keeping it short.  Loggerheads reach sexual maturity at around 35 years of age. In the southeastern U.S., mating occurs in late March to early June and females lay eggs between late April and early September. Females lay three to five nests, and sometimes more, during a single nesting season. The eggs incubate approximately two months before hatching sometime between late June and mid-November.

Loggerheads are a protected species as they have been hunted and used for many purposes including meat, eggs and fat. An important contribution is played by the groups of humans who now volunteer to watch over the nest, to protect the eggs from predators both animal and human, to record and protect the hatching and the exodus of the babies to the ocean. You can find out about making volunteering your vacation at and through many other national and international organizations.

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