I should be tired after a 5-hours midnight patrol from 12am-5am, which was also the last patrol with Gigi and Bill. However, I need to write down what is on my head now before I could sleep. It is the nesting season for green turtles now but it seems like the peak is almost over and the number of turtles coming ashore to lay eggs has declined. Just a month ago, we counted more than 200 turtles per night and now it is just 60+ turtles per night. I felt really happy to have the last patrol with Gigi and Bill. Before we headed out to the beach, we were told that there were not many turtles but in the end we had four turtles and even marked a nest!!! Woohoo!!!
What really hurt my heart was to find out a turtle being poached under our watch. When we found our first turtle, Gigi and Bill went up to check. While I was waiting near the low tide line, I could see white light shining from a torch quite some distance away. Supposedly there should not be anyone on the beach past 12am, except for RAs. I raised my concern to Gigi and based on her experiences, it was usually tourists on the beach. I was more afraid that it would be poachers. Trying to be positive and assuming everything was alright, we just walked at a normal pace and continued looking for turtle tracks. One of the tracks turned into a drag mark on the beach which led Gigi and Bill to entrance 21, which means a turtle was poached and probably right under our nose! I walked up and cursed within myself – SHIT! Not again!! The last time when I check on a turtle, the track became a drag mark when the turtle was flipped over and dragged to the entrance, past the vegetation and most probably all the way to the river on the other side. We called the police and alerted them. They sent someone to check it out. The last time the same thing happened, Bjorn, Carolyn and I found a drag mark at the same entrance!!! Sometimes I just wished we get the in time to save the turtle!
Since there was nothing we can do about it, we continued our patrol and found more turtles. One turtle had a tag that showed 59111!!! I had to recheck it like five times just to make sure it was correct. The smallest number we ever saw was probably 8xxxx and these tags were from 1998/1999 so I am really curious which year this turtle was tagged!! She is definitely a grandma turtle! We turned back when it was 3.15am. On the way back, we marked a nest of the last turtle which laid 109 eggs. I started to wonder why Gigi kept saying thank you for staying up with her and Bill. Then only I realised it was already past 4am. We were supposed to be back by 4am but for once we got back at 5am! Carolyn and Bjorn were already up for the morning survey when I got back.
Despite the bad encounter, I had a good night. The sky started to turn bright when the sun came up but was still hidden behind the clouds. Unfortunately we did not see any turtles going back to the sea, otherwise it would be so nice! Before I leave Tortuguero, I would really like to watch the sunrise, at least once! I believe that it will be really beautiful!
P/S: The turtle with the tag number 59111 was first seen in 1980!!! She had been tagged for about 5-8 times and was recorded to nest 38 times since.