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Olive Ridley Tortugita’s Pilgrimage Home

Frizztext’s alphabet letter for the week is O!  He asks us to check our tagwords for the letter O.  In my archives, “O” stands for the gentle olive ridley sea turtle!

“Crawling Lessons” – watercolor – ©Lisa Brunetti

Welcome to the world of the olive ridleys that visit Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica each rainy season.

The young hatchlings face tremendous odds, and one out of one thousand lives to be an adult.  Some say the figure is closer to two thousand.

Ah, how comforting it is to discover the turtles’ calling-card trail!

Most mornings find me on the beach before sunrise; there’s always a slight chance  to witness an adult olive ridley finishing her egg-laying duties.  The turtles leave an obvious trail, which I follow to see who reached it first:  poachers or the biologists and volunteers for Pretoma.

Nest Raided By Poachers

One Egg Left Behind

This beauty provided photo ops of her egg-laying trance.

The above turtle came ashore right before sunset.  The one below was a dawn surprise!

Olive Ridley Sunrise – photo copyright Lisa Brunetti

While covering her nest, this female was choked by a tangle of roots and vines.  I was able to break her free.

Most of the time the turtles come ashore under the cloak of darkness.  The biologists and volunteers patrol the beach during the night.  They collect data and oversee the turtle until she returns to the ocean.  They transfer the eggs to a nursery, where they are buried at the same depth as the original nest.  In forty to sixty days, the eggs hatch and answer the call of Mother Ocean!

Ah! Tortugitas!

GPS imprint – in a dozen years she might return!

How fun it is to witness the baby turtles’ first hour of life!  They emerge from the sand and instinctively veer toward the sound and aromas of the ocean.

When released from the nursery, the tortugitas stop and imprint numerous times before reaching the ocean.

How much further?

First they learn to crawl;  then they learn to swim!  They will travel vast distances for a dozen or more years, then magically respond to the mating call and return to their beach of origin.

Swim your heart out, little one, and carry with you the GPS positioning of your birthplace!

The beach sentinels welcome the turtles’ return.

A dozen years later internal stirrings nudge her back, and the cycle continues.

After laying her eggs, she retreats to her rightful home.

Perhaps she loiters nearby and welcomes the hatchlings.

Visit Frizztext’s Flickrcomments page for his Occupy Wall Street post, as well as other illustrations of the letter ‘O.’

They’re off! Tortugitas of Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

How many do you think will return?

For an in depth peek into the battle to protect the olive ridleys, see THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT on my other site.