The three main sea turtles to be found in our waters are the Leatherback, Green & Hawksbill. The latter two are resident, as opposed to the leatherback which generally wanders all over the ocean, returning only to lay their eggs (and we believe congregate to mate - but this is not a proven fact yet).
||The basic details are that leatherbacks are:
1. The largest sea turtle in the world. They can weigh up to 1800 -2000 lbs., although the average is closer to 800 - 1000 lbs. Their wing span (flipper span) can be as much as 10 feet, and they can measure in excess of 12 feet from nose to tail. In other words they can be very big.
2. They are to oldest known species of turtle, and are basically unchanged over the last 60 million years.
3. As their name suggests, leatherbacks have no shell, instead their back is covered with a thick leathery carapace, hence the name leatherback.
4. They are the farthest travelling sea turtle, and have been known to wander for thousands of miles, often interchanging oceans several times in the process.
5. They are know to be able to live in excess of 100 years.
6. They do not reach sexual maturity until about 20 years of age.
7. They are solitary creatures, and only congregate on rare occasions either to mate, or because of a localised food source.
8. A female turtle will lay between 80 -120 eggs at a time, and will lay as many as 5 times in a nesting season, usually with gap of between 10 - 15 days between each nesting.
9. The nesting and laying process may last anything between 45 minutes and 2 1/2 hours.
10. The egg chamber is usually 2 1/2 - 3 feet deep, and about 18 - 20 inches wide. Ideally the base of egg chamber will sit just above the high tide water line, so that the incoming tide will moisten the nest and allow the eggs to breath (through their leathery shells). If the egg chamber is to deep the eggs may drown, if it is to shallow they may dry out, suffocate and die.
11. Hatchlings emerge between 60 - 65 days later.
12. Providing the next survives to maturity, in the wild, an average of 50 - 60% of the eggs laid actually hatch.
13. The hatching, like the nesting, almost always takes place at night. Consequently perdition by birds is often not a problem as the hatchlings race to the sea
14. Of those hatchlings that do make it to the sea, it is estimated that only one in 100 will actually survive to sexual maturity, with a chance of laying eggs.
15. Almost nothing is known about the adolescent turtles from the time that they first enter the water, till the day that the first survivors emerge to lay their eggs.
16. Despite local laws protecting the turtles, these are seldom enforced by the authorities in Tobago and poaching remains the single biggest challenge to the turtles survival.
17. Local folk law suggests that the meat of the turtle has aphrodisiac powers, and that a punch made from the eggs gives a person great strength and virility, and helps them to ward of daemons and bad spirits.
18. Turtle meat is not considered an essential part of the local diet, but is more regarded as a treat for special occasions. Despite this, many people do not like the taste and regard the meat as tough and unpalatable.
19. Our investigations suggests that 90% of people who eat (or have eaten) turtle meat have never seen a turtle. Of those who then have the opportunity to see a turtle, 90% choose never to eat the meat again. Education is the key!
20. The principle nesting sights for leatherback Turtles in Tobago are Stonehaven Bay (also known as Grafton Beach) Back Bay, Turtle beach and Castara beach. These beaches, as well as all of the other beaches on the Caribbean side of the island are favoured for nesting by sea turtles.
21. Despite the efforts of many agencies and concerned people world-wide, leatherback Turtles remain the worlds most endangered species of sea turtle, and the known stocks of all other species continue to decline. the principle reasons for this continue to be endemic poaching, commercial harvesting, environmental destruction and pollution
Tel: (868) 639-0686, Fax: (868) 639-0057
Grafton Beach Road