It’s pitch black and all is still – except for the gentle sound of the waves breaking on the beach, and then you hear it… a scraping sound of something slowly coming up the beach.
And then there’s the sound of something digging a hole in the sand – ever so softly and yet with an urgency.
As the light shines on this intruder, you see a huge female turtle, preparing a nest for her eggs. It is a ritual that has been done for years – eons in fact.
Turtles – those noble creatures of the seas – have lived in the oceans for over 100 million years.
But sadly their numbers are slowly dwindling because of their biggest threat – man. Right now there are only about seven remaining species of turtles and six out of the seven are found in the Pacific Ocean.
And they could soon be a figment of our imagination if measures are not taken to preserve this beautiful species.
But this is not meant to be some spill on environmental conservation – as our regular feature on Fiji’s animals we highlight the turtle – or more precisely three species commonly found in Fiji waters.
Before we introduce you to our Fiji sea turtles – here’s some facts about turtles.
Turtles are reptiles that have lungs instead of gills even though they live in the water. Sea turtles have a large shell called a carapace and four strong flippers which are used for swimming and steering them through the water.
They have no teeth but the shape of each species’ jaws is determined by what they eat. An adult male turtle can be identified by a long tail and long claws on the front flippers. And an adult female turtle is believed to be 20-25 years old before she can lay eggs.
Turtles are migratory animals – adult male and female turtles migrate from feeding grounds to nesting beaches where they mate.
After mating, the males return to the feeding grounds which could be over 3000 km away while the females gather together into areas besides the nesting beaches.
Nesting occurs at night about four weeks after mating. The female turtle simply drags herself onto the beach above the high tide mark and there she digs a vertical tunnel with a round base called an egg chamber and lays her eggs – she can lay up to 120 eggs at a time.
She then uses her back flippers to pat down the damp sand so that the eggs are packed in tightly.
But onto the beauties that grace our...