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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


An image of baby sea turtles in Dominica
Photos by Marinecreatures.com

Being on a beach can be something far more interesting and thrilling than merely getting tanned, taking photos and building sandcastles. Especially if we’re talking about Dominica’s beaches. What makes them so special? The answer is: Their wildlife.

If you happen to be in Dominica, you may prove to be lucky enough to watch the sea turtles crawling ashore… Or their hatchlings making their first journey. Many of them will perish in an hour, but some will be back in thirty years to lay the eggs of their own.

Life is cyclic, and observing it recreate is always fun. This kind of observation is a part of ecotourism. In the North and Southeast Dominica, it exists thanks to the Sea Turtle Conservation program which aims to save the endangered species.

Observing the turtles may be fun, but you can’t do it by yourself. You ought to have the special permission for that, because the beaches are not open for all comers. Fortunately, while not open, they are still accessible. A good option is to get the beach patrollers give your group a tour. Not gonna be hard, one of their duties is escorting visitors to the beach and back, to ensure civilized behavior and to guide them. The tours are organized by RoSTI (stands for Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative). You may contact RoSTI on 225-7742. The tours are held from March to October, each one costing ten bucks per person.

turtle watching in Dominica

What else the patrollers do? A significant part of their work consists of data collection and turtle tagging. That’s what we call monitoring. There are three endangered species monitored by them: Hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles. From time to time, relocating nests is required, and they do it, too.

If you expect them guard the beaches and the turtles, you are right, the turtle guarding is of the highest priority. Recently, poachers became a major trouble, since the hunting has put the leatherback and hawksbill turtles to the brink of extinction. Moreover, one may cause harm by accident, destroying a nest, as an example. So, steps had to be taken.

Dominica baby turtle

Many of the poachers are the local citizens. Unfortunately, first of all they consider the sea turtles a delicacy, as a result, their behavior cannot even pretend to be civilized. Feeding on the endangered animals is barbaric and highly irrational; these are the things the people have to learn. In fact, the ecotourism programs are primarily targeted at the locals. This would help to encourage their pride for the island and its wildlife. Every new tourist shows to everybody the turtles may be a source of income when living, not dead.

So, are the sea turtles worth of looking at? You decide. After all, the three species are endangered, that stands for rare. Watching them must be interesting. Especially rare are the leatherback turtles. Some people call them monsters. At first glance, they may look like monsters indeed, but in fact they are very cute, harmless and helpless creatures. Touching them is just exciting, and listening to them breathe is also fun.

You may also help the patrollers to get rid of some rocks laying in turtles’ way. Taking pictures of these reptiles feels even greater… But this is something you can’t do many times at a time. The turtles lay eggs at night, so flashes scare them away. If they are in the water, they may but come ashore because of their fear. So, every taken picture is precious, unless you use an IR camera.

sea turtle in Dominica

If you are a nature enthusiast, you must fall in love with leatherback turtles (if you still haven’t). They are the largest and most unique giant turtles, each adult specimen reaching 1,000 lb in weight. Their shells are not connected to the skeleton, and this distinguishes them from the other existing turtles. Interestingly, on the beaches of Dominica, you can find turtles tagged in other places of the world, including Africa.

So this is what the endangered turtles are, and how they are conserved and monitored. If it were up to you, what would you choose: Being a beach patroller, or being a plain tourist?

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3 Comments »

Comment by Dan
2010-10-08 12:14:42

A wonderful article!

 
Comment by clorissa
2011-05-26 08:59:31

i love sea turtles and i am going to try to get to see turtles here soon

Comment by Chris
2011-06-03 20:56:27

That’s Great …. please share your experience!

 
 
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