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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Saving the Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Sandals Whitehouse, one of the all inclusive hotels in the Sandals Resorts International Chain, located in Westmoreland on the south coast of Jamaica has always been a popular choice for visitors. This was made more evident with the arrival of the Hawksbill sea turtles, when their tracks were first noticed on the property's white sand beach in 2011.

A team comprised of fishermen from the local Bluefield Bay Fishermen Friendly Society  (BBFFS) trained in sea turtle conservation, and members of the hotel staff were led by the Environment Health and Safety (EHS) department to start an exciting and educational monitoring nesting program at the resort. The team worked endlessly to preserve the lives of this endangered species, as bad weather and predators had decreased the quantity of nests found.

Nighttime vigils in the mangroves and patrols along the beachfront property looking for nests and predators became a daily part of the hotel's activities. An intensive clean up campaign to remove trash and other debris scattered on the beach outside the boundaries of the hotel's property, and surrounding areas where the turtles would most likely make their nests was successful.

The month of May 2013 was the beginning of sea turtle season, and the dedicated team and hotel guests impatiently began their watch for signs of the Hawksbill turtles return. This event, however, did not take place until July and September, and twenty-nine nests were found. Six of the nests were destroyed by predators, and some had to be relocated to safer havens along the beach. Two hundred and forty-four (244) hatchlings were recorded, and they were safely released into the sea. Four nests remained at the time with an average of four hundred and eighty-five (485) eggs.

Turtle preservation is one of the many projects that the Sandals Foundation, a division of the Sandals Resorts International focuses on. A cash donation was recently given to the BBFFS, which was badly needed to further assist in the research, growth and protection of one of the most endangered and beloved sea creatures.

Things You May Not Know About the Hawksbill Sea Turtle:

1. It is one of the smallest sea turtles growing to an adult length of 2.5 - 3 feet (71 - 89cm).

2. The average weight of the adult is 101 - 154 pounds (46 - 70kg).

3. A Hawksbill's diet mainly consist of  sponges, squid, shrimp and anemones.

4. The turtle's natural habitat can be found in rocky areas, coastal reefs, estuaries and lagoons.

5.Their mating periods are between 2 - 4 years, and they usually nest 3 - 6 times per season.

6. The turtles will lay an average of 160 eggs per nest, with an incubation period of 60 days.

Hawksbill image courtesy of wikimediacommons.org