All I Want for Christmas is 100 Turtle Eggs | by Elisha Petrie

Been to paradise?#

I have.

Got your Christmas wish?

I have.

Think white sand and clear as day water; you can see reef sharks, turtles and rays cruising around. Without even leaving your sunbed.

I was in this paradise for three weeks. An island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The island has a large nesting population of Green sea turtles. They emerge from the water; pull their 150 kg self into the dunes and clear an area. Then, using their rear flippers, dig a 70 cm deep egg chamber (nest), lay 100+ eggs, cover it all up and head back to the water.

And these gals, they can take turtley, sweeet, long time.

Now, let’s meet Billy.

Billy, our three-flippered turtle had come up nine nights in a row trying to lay her eggs.

She had been bitten by a shark and was missing her back, right flipper and a good chunk of her shell. She took an extra long time to get up the beach and failed to dig a nest every single time.

Every night we helped her to build her nest, but she just wasn’t feeling it.

If she didn’t eventually lay on the beach, she would release her eggs in the ocean. A whole clutch dead. And when only 1 in a 1000 actually make it to adulthood, man, this species needs all the help they can get.

It was a balmy 35 degree night, the night of Christmas. I was waiting for the turtles to come up and do their thang. At about 4:30am, first light for the beach, up comes this turtle, extra slow… it was our gal Billy, here to try and lay. Again.

She’d only just made it to the first dune before she started to clear the area of vegetation and loose sand, and then began to dig to her nest. The dry sand was falling in, she was knocking the edges of the nest and it wasn’t looking good.

I was there to help her along and together we dug out a ‘decent enough’ nest for her.

This was it. The moment of truth. She put her head up and took a deep breath in to decide if she was happy enough to lay her eggs here; and I too crossed my fingers, and hoped that we would have a Christmas miracle!

She did! Our gal Billy laid a full clutch, covered it up and went back to the sea.

I may have shed a small tear for her. It was incredible to see the determination of this mumma turtle who was not letting her injury stop her from giving 100+ hatchlings a chance to a life at sea.

Moments like these give me so much motivation to keep spreading awareness about out ocean, while cleaning coasts and ditching plastic. If you have the chance to get involved with a project where you can see these beautiful reptiles doing their thang, I highly highly recommend!

About the Entry

Elisha Petrie

I’m Elisha, 26 year old, full-time chaser from Brisbane Australia. The ocean, like many people, has always been close to my heart, whether it be for the animals, the waves, the beach and the emotion of it. When you’re feeling low – hit the water; happy – hit the water; inspired – hit the water… not inspired – hit the water. All these things, and more, are why I am dedicating my time to protecting it!

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