Malongane falls within the famous Maputaland coastline which is
the nesting ground to the famous Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles.
are fortunate enough to have these wonderful creatures nest along
the beach every summer from October to December.
turtles fall into one of the most ancient reptillian orders whose
fossil history reaches back 200 million years.
are five species which have survived and still inhabit our Maputaland
waters: Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green, Olive Ridley, and Hawksbill
five species neither compete for food nor space and are an impressive
example of the occupation of different niches which leads to a harmonious
turtles nest in summer at night when the female comes out of the
surf and rests in the shallow water, lifting her head on the alert
for danger. They are easily disturbed at this stage. Satisfied that
there is no danger, she will make her way up the beach well above
the high water mark where she will find a suitable site.
will then begin digging a cavity with her fore-flippers, throwing
sand backwards, until she can nestle down to a level where her carapase
is level with the surrounding beach. She will then dig an egg cavity
with her hind flippers some 45cm deep and flask shaped.
120 soft-shelled, white eggs are then dropped in bursts of 1-4.
Once she has finished laying, she will drop sand to cover the eggs,
feeling gently with her hind flippers until the hole is filled level
with the beach. She kneads and presses the surface until it is packed
this she will disguise the nest by vigorously throwing sand with
her fore-flippers and, in an exhausted state, she returns to the
55-65 days the hatchlings (using an egg tooth on the end of their
beaks) cut their way out of the egg and straighten out. After the
bulk of the clutch has emerged, they start to scrabble at the walls
and roof of the chamber bringing down sand which passes through
the body of the hatchlings forming a new floor which gradually thickens,
bringing the hatchlings to the surface of the beach rather like
the hatchlings reach the surface during the heat of the day, they
are automatically inhibited from further movement by the heat of
the surface sand and will wait until the temperature drops before
bursting out and running for the sea.
guide themselves by sight, heading for the exact centre of the light
zone which is almost always to be found over the sea horizon. During
the run to the water up to 12% of the hatchlings may be taken by
ghost crabs and once in the sea, predation on the hatchlings during
their first few months of life is intense and it has been estimated
that only 1 in 2 hatchlings from every thousand that enters the
sea will reach maturity.
that survive will spend the next three years drifing in the Indian
Ocean whre they will feed on floating organisms such as blue bottles
and purple storm snails. Amazingly enough research has shown that
once mature (12-15 years), the females will often return to the
beaches on which they were hatched to lay their eggs.
these wonderful creatures are widely exploited along our own coastline,
and in Madagascar over 23 000 turtles were killed and eaten during
KZN Wildlife is actively involved in a protection programme together
with a number of volunteers who work the Mozambique coastline. During
the nesting period the turtles are tagged and recovery data is extremely
valuable to the scientists, and this is where we, the public, can
help to further protect the species.
you should come across a tagged adult turtle or hatchling with a
notch out of its carapace, please notify you nearest institute,
university or Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. If such an opportunity does
not exist, then please note the following information for labelling
involved - a photograph showing the head makes identification
send to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
hatchlings, notched or not, should be sent to the nearest institute
or direct to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
specimens should be placed in a plastic bag with some cotton wool
or tissue which has been dipped into mentholated spirits of alcohol.
The bag should be sealed and posted in an envelope or box.
trust you have enjoyed learning a little more about the turtles,
and ask that you please help us protect these gentle creatures.
extracted from 'Sea Turtles' by Dr G R Hughes, former Chief Executive
Officer of the Natal Parks Board.