An essay of poetry and prose about the Leatherback Sea Turtles of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Leatherbac Sea Turtles
of Trinidad and Tobago
"Those lucky few who have witnessed a leatherback sea turtle nesting say it’s like watching a VW Bug trying to dig a ditch, complete with tire tracks and piles of excavated sand."
Samantha Whitcraft, SeaView: Saving Leatherbacks in Trinidad and Tobago1
Each species saved from extinction is another candle of hope. Another reason for humanity to celebrate its own survival. However, without a dedicated effort to overcome the superstitions of the past, and take up our duties as stewards of the planet, humanity and every other creature on the planet will perish. One of the creatures that we have to take care of is Dermochelys coriacea2, the leatherback sea turtle. Eighty percent of these ancient creatures nest on the sandy beach of Trinidad and Tobago.3
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
behold the leatherbacks beautiful
in their midnight trek across the sandy beaches
of Trinidad and Tobago
to lay the next generation
An ancient species, these creatures have inhabited Earth's oceans for over one-hundred million years. The largest leatherbacks can measure over 10 ft. long and weigh more than 2,000 lbs., but they usually weigh around 1,000 lbs. with measurement of two to seven feet. Instead of hard shells, this species of turtle have rubber-like shells with seven ridges to give it flexibility gives it the ability to dive as deep as 4,000 ft. under the ocean.4
Names for the Dermochelys Coriacea5
Leatherback Sea Turtle
The beaches of Trinidad and Tobago are some of the most nesting sites for the leatherback sea turtle. The normal nesting season is from March through September, and females come to these beaches from all across the Atlantic to lay their eggs here. Some of the beaches, such as Grande Rivière and Matura6, are protected and patrolled, while some of the unpatrolled are the Turtles Beaches on Tobago7. The lack of guards patrolling these beaches encourages poaching.8
Nesting Sites in Trinidad and Tobago9
Hatchlings emerge two months after the eggs are laid by digging themselves out of their sandy nest. The baby turtles make their way across the sand, and into the sea. Once safely in the ocean, they attempt to evade predators until maturity. When the females mature, they return to the beach where they were hatched to lay another generation of eggs. The males spend the rest of their lives in the ocean, never going back onto the beaches.10
The sea turtles of Trinidad and Tobago are endangered, and it is up to all of us to protect these ancient creatures. One of the ways we can do this is not to purchase turtle products, no matter where on the planet we live or vacation. Another way is not to throw plastics into the ocean because the turtles can confuse the plastic with their favorite food, which is jellyfish.11 If one wants to see these turtles laying eggs, there are tour groups that specialize in eco-tourism, which supports and encourages the protection of endangered species. Those of us who cannot afford these tours can still help by making sure that laws are passed to protect any and all endangered animals and plants.