Thursday, September 5, 2013

MoFo Interruptus (Sea Turtle Emergency!)

Look who I met tonight!
Welcome to the world little loggerhead!
I'm pretty sure of all the other bloggers around the world participating in VeganMoFo, none of them have to juggle their blogging obligations around sea turtle issues. None of them, that is, except for me.

VeganMoFo is on hiatus for today, while I bring you the story of a sea turtle rescue. There is a wee bit of food talk, so bear with me.

Today I worked on 4 new recipes. I surpassed my expectations... nothing resulted in a compost walk of shame, in fact it was quite the opposite. Of them all, I'm most happy with my carrot chia muffins, although everything came out nicely. The plan was to put up some photos, but there simply was no time because of what happened early evening.

I did all this baking which resulted in many racks of muffins and other things cooling in the kitchen. The kitchen was a disaster. I had every appliance I owned going today... the Vitamix with both wet & dry containers (wet to make me a smoothie, dry to grind oat flour), the food processor, my Champion juicer (I needed that to juice veggies to use as a base for one of my muffin creations), the big Kitchen Aid, plus my slop sink began to overflow with scads of stainless bowls from so many recipes. It took me well over an hour to clean up the kitchen while my last batch was baking. While this was going on, the other happy vegan reminded me that he had scheduled a turtle nest excavation for early evening. I began to feel pressure.

I took to the office and did some on line work, then tackled some paperwork. Before I knew it, the time was upon us to gather for the excavation. The background is important to know. The nest we had scheduled to excavate was a nest we had relocated. Back in June, a loggerhead came ashore and laid her eggs so close to the tide line that the eggs were in imminent danger of being lost due to sea water inundation. By the time we got the ok from the higher ups on the mainland in charge of sea turtles, the nest had been already exposed to one high tide. That is not good. Despite this, of course once permission was granted, we went and did the nest relocation to higher ground within a dune. More background.... if you didn't already know, both of us happy vegans are certified wildlife paraprofessionals. We volunteer for Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys, Inc. a non-profit grassroots group of exceptionally dedicated people who form the network that does the sea turtle beach patrols every day, and also do stranding, salvage and rescue calls. So, with proper authorization and appropriate permits, we did the relocation. The nest didn't seem to hatch, although we did see an small "cave in" at the site which could have been evidence of a hatch. We were instructed to wait the full amount of time for a possible hatch before excavation, which we did. We went to dig the nest tonight, hoping to find spent shells and an empty  nest, but sadly that is not what we found. Instead, when we got to the site, and began to dig, we found that the eggs had all died. It's hard to be certain, but it appears that the eggs never really had a chance, and probably died when they were exposed to that single high tide. Some of the eggs had tiny holes in them, and were completely empty, which is evidence of ant predation. A few had insides that looked "cooked," while most simply were dented and black... mostly moldy. We did find some eggs that actually had some turtles that began to grow, and that's a really difficult sight to see. They were not fully formed, but you can tell it was going to be a baby sea turtle, with flippers and stuff. So sad to bear witness to this. We did the excavation, took appropriate photos for the authorities, documented all the numbers (this nest had over 130 eggs lost), re-buried them, did the camouflage, and then picked up trash on the scene when we were done. As I was picking up trash, I became separated from the other happy vegan. He was walking down beach, while I was staying near the nest picking up some buoys (I found 2 perfect buoys on the flats which I will clean, decorate with turtle sayings and stuff, then sell to raise money to donate to local animal charities like I always do). Finally I heard my name over and over being shouted.... along with the chaser "hurry up! I think a nest hatched!" I ran down the beach with my trash and buoys. By the time I got to the other happy vegan, he had begun to excavate a small area where another nest was. There were teeny tracks in the area too! I looked in the hole, and there was a baby sea turtle! The hatchling was barely moving. A bucket was brought to the nest, into which we placed some sand and a small amount of sea water. Then, ever so carefully, we picked up the exhausted, barely moving hatchling and placed him into the bucket.

We continued the excavation. There were 56 hatched (we count the empty shells), 30-something undeveloped and/or dead in shell (again, so sad.... very difficult to see), and the 1 rescued from the nest. The great Dr. Doug Mader was also on site, he placed a call to the Turtle Hospital indicating we would be arriving within the hour with this hatchling. After the nest was all excavated, photos taken, data collected, and shells re-buried, we took the hatchling in the bucket to our truck, and then high-tailed it to the Turtle Hospital. The hatchling began to get much more active in the bucket. In fact, when I picked him up to photograph, he actually gripped onto my gloved hand with such force I was truly taken aback. I'd never felt such force from a hatchling before! This was a VERY good sign.

We made it to the Turtle Hospital pretty quickly, and handed over the hatchling in the bucket. Before we left, I made certain to reassure the hatchling that he was the "one" out of every hundred that will survive. He's going to get some nourishment and a checkup at the hospital, then as quickly as he's ready, they will transport him a few miles out in the Atlantic Ocean into the protection and nourishment of the weed line. There, I am certain, he will live out the beginnings of his life, swimming the giant ocean, while he grows up big and strong.  Then, once grown, he will be that one out of every 100 which will survive to adulthood and continue to repopulate their precious, and endangered, species.

One out of every 100.  Tonight I met the one.

VeganMoFo will continue tomorrow. Pardon the interruption, but as you can see, it was for a very good cause.

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