Their names are Nephthys, Tocht, Amon, Set… (all named after Egyptian gods) and this afternoon they said goodbye to Tarragona. Let’s hope that in 15-20 years some of them will return to lay their eggs on the beach of the Miracle.
There are 22 sea turtles of the Caretta caretta species, most (17) coming from the nest that surprised Tarragona residents last year in the middle of a crowded beach. Another five from a nest at Arenis de Mar that could not be released at the time.
Sylvia Giralt, oceanographer responsible for the research and conservation area of the Foundation for the Conservation and Recovery of Marine Animals, CRAM, explains that when a nest is discovered, a small portion of the eggs are removed to incubate them. This is done in this case to ensure their survival if there is any accident on the beach.
After the eggs in the CRAM incubators hatched, one part of the turtles remained at the center and another was taken out to sea after two weeks. In turn, when those from the beach eggs hatched, some specimens were also brought to the center.
Both animals were born a little over a year ago and have been carefully cared for at the CDC. Giralt laughs that for the first few months “I was a very busy mother” because the newborn turtles had to be fed one by one a mash of oily fish, white fish, clams and crustaceans.
Subsequently, their diet was adapted to eating solid food and they had to grind larger pieces or do intermittent fasting as they would in nature.
They also simulated adverse conditions such as strong waves or storms in the reservoirs. This whole process is part of the Head Starting project, which consists of temporary breeding in captivity until the offspring reach optimal weight and size.
Giralt says that when these turtles are born, they are completely black and their shell is soft, making them very vulnerable to predators: only one in a thousand survives. On the other hand, the turtles released yesterday already weighed between two and two and a half kilograms, which they say will give them a 70% better chance of survival. Yes, its reproductive age will not come until 15 or 20 years (these turtles can live up to ninety).
And that’s one of the reasons they were released on the same beach where their mother used to come to lay their eggs. All sea turtles have philopathy, that is, the memory and tendency to spawn in the place where they were born.
Although the effect that climate change will have on this behavior remains to be seen, as one theory is that some have started to reach the coast of Catalonia in search of less hot waters.
If they come back, it will be possible to confirm that it is them because each one is tagged with a microchip like the one put on dogs and cats to identify them. CT BETA of the University of Vic, the Oceanographic Foundation of Valencia, LIMIA and Palma Aquarium participated in the project as part of the Santander for the Seas program of the Banco Santander Foundation.
Yesterday’s release of the turtles was surrounded by great anticipation as an activity was prepared so that the children would know what to do if they found a turtle or a nest and saw them first hand. In fact, some like Ariadne, Lucia, Daniel and David, four cousins, have already come with the lesson well learned. In these cases, they explained, “you should call 112”.
They knew this because in their school they attended a lecture organized by the Tarragona City Council on the subject, which left them very shocked. “You have to think we can do things like not throw trash into the sea,” said Ariadne… A few minutes later, a CRAM technician reminded them that most of the turtles that arrive at the foundation’s hospital , have plastic in their feces.
Xavier Llopart, environmental technician for the Municipal Council, explains that the appearance of this nest meant an opportunity to carry out environmental education in schools in particular and for the general public.
In the same address, the environmental councilor Eva Miguel and the mayor of Tarragona, Pau Ricoma, spoke, who took the opportunity to thank all the environmental institutions of the city and private volunteers who joined in monitoring the nest last year. Miguel also took the opportunity to ask for more logistical support from the Generalitat “because that is his competence”. The process was also assisted by the Diputació de Tarragona and the port.
Little by little the turtles are freed; and if in the sand it seemed difficult for them to move, once they hit the water, they immediately lost track, amid the excited “Oooooh!” of some child and the cameras of hundreds of cell phones. Time will tell if they inherited the power of the Egyptian gods and if this little human help was enough. If we see them again, that will be a great sign.