Sadly, local poachers remove eggs and hatchlings from their natural life cycle, selling them for food at the market. We make every effort to rescue these baby turtles from becoming another meal. Since we are unable to identify their natal beach to release them back into their natural life cycle, we raise the baby sea turtle hatchlings as one of our conservation strategies to give them a new chance at survival. We headstart hatchlings to an age when their shells are hardened enough to protect themselves from the natural predators in the wild. Aside from human predation, natural predation - animals such as birds, crabs, ants, raccoons, and larger fish, is the main reason for the high mortality rates of hatchlings and why marine biologists believe "1 out of 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood."
Our goal is to increase the survival percentage rate. To accomplish this, the sea turtle hatchlings are kept in specially designed enclosures that keep them safe from predators, but still allow fresh seawater to flow in and out through the finely netted bottom. This setup simulates a natural habitat which allows for natural sea water circulation. They are nurtured in every aspect of their infant lives. The hatchlings are fed much the same diet they would find in the wild – shrimp, small fish, and other sea critters. Their high protein diet of varying fish and squid is supplemented with essential vitamins and minerals to increase their survival rate, as well as provide them with the most nutritionally substantial first year of life as possible. After about 15 months, the turtles are larger and their shells have hardened, making them less susceptible to predators, at which time they are released.
Sea turtles already have enough pressure from mankind - extending a hand to their babies is something we can do to counteract the destruction we humans have caused to their species. We should reduce the pressures they face from natural predators by giving them maternal love and care. Imagine how your life would turn out if your mother and father left you to fend for yourself when you were born...the time is now, in this critical era of possible sea turtle extinction, that we must give baby sea turtles the love they deserve.
For further discussion on headstarting, please read: Marine Turtle Newsletter's Guest Editorial: Give 'Headstarting' a Chance