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Green Sea Turtle Eggs Hatch at Atlantis
By Kerzner International Bahamas Limited
Aug 16, 2011 - 2:51:54 PM

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Green Turtle hatchlings in a clutch replica.

Marine Aquarium team releases babies into the ocean

Paradise Island, Bahamas -
The Sun had barely dipped below the horizon on Paradise Beach as half a dozen everyday citizens joined members of Atlantis’ Marine Aquarium Operations team for a unique and beautiful experience. They gathered roughly 500 yards west of The Reef, to release about 20 baby green turtles onto the sand to begin their life journey in the Atlantic Ocean. Without any coercion or direction, the hatchlings waddled down the dunes into the ocean and disappeared in the darkness.

Mature female Green Sea Turtles ( Chelonia mydas) lay an average of 300 to 600 eggs every nesting season which occurs roughly every two years. The females may come up an average of 2- 3 times per season to dig and deposit clutches of eggs. At Atlantis, a turtle nesting beach adjacent to the turtle lagoon at Beach Tower provides the perfect habitat for the gravid females to deposit their eggs. Because the beach is too small for multiple nests, the Aquarium team has to check the beach each morning during the nesting period (typically May thru July), looking for turtle tracks and a disturbed area of sand left by the female the night before so that the nests can be easily located and the eggs can be carefully excavated.

Three Green Sea Turtle hatchlings waddling to the ocean

Once the eggs are unearthed, they are removed from the nest and individually marked to ensure proper orientation. They are then transported to the fish hospital to be counted and incubated in replica of the nest.  For the next 60 days or more, the husbandry team meticulously cares for the incubating eggs by maintaining optimum conditions in the incubators for the future hatchlings. A temperature reading is taken at the nesting site and heat lamps over the incubators in the hospital help maintain the temperatures as close as possible to that of the original nest.  This year, Atlantis’ green turtles have laid approximately 900 eggs but not all of them may be fertile.

According to Sr. Aquarist Elgin Hepburn, should only a fraction of those eggs hatch, there would too many turtles to care for considering this year the team has incubated over 900 eggs. 

“Releasing them to the wild is the best option and a good way to add to the wild population. When the baby turtles, called hatchlings, emerge from the sand in the incubator, we schedule a release within one to two days, depending upon the size of their remaining yolk sack,” said Hepburn. 

“It is important to release the turtles soon after they hatch so that they are able to adapt quickly to the natural environment and do what their instincts tell them to do. During the actual release, the little hatchlings are taken to a beach in the late evening as the sun is about to set because this is when they would naturally emerge from their nests.  They are placed on the sand and allowed to crawl to the ocean.  This is important because it is believed that mature female turtles may return to the same beach from which they initially entered the ocean.”

“As a team, we in the Marine Aquarium Operations department are very proud and extremely grateful that we have this opportunity to contribute, in a small way, to the population numbers of turtles in the wild,” continued Hepburn. “Many turtle species are either threatened or endangered, so it is a commendable that Kerzner International's management team allows us to maintain a breeding population of Green Turtles and release the hatchlings.  By having such releases, it is our hope that we are playing our part as a good corporate citizen to ensure that Green Turtles will exist in the waters of the Bahamas for years to come.”

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