Development disturbs turtles' nesting grounds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2001, 12:00am

On the sandy beach of Island Ellen, a nest of eggs has been quietly laid in the fine sand.

The eggs - about 80 of them - have been there for about two months. On this night, the sound of one of the eggs hatching breaks the stillness. Emerging from the white shell is a small dark animal. It climbs awkwardly on to the sand with its flippers. One by one, all of the hatchlings break free from their egg shells and are out on the beach.

The creatures, commonly called the green turtle, now head towards the sea.

Because of the cool weather while they were incubating, males predominate in the group. Warmer weather would have produced more females.

Hurriedly crawling towards the water with its siblings is On line, a male baby turtle. He knows that after tonight, he will leave the land and only return occasionally. He will spend most of his time in shallow-water feeding grounds where abun dant aquatic plants are found. His instincts tell him that he will face great dangers during his adult life. But it only makes him more determined to head towards the sea to face his future.

Finally, they reach the cool and salty waters. There, they drift with large mats of floating seaweed in the open waters, ready to face the challenges.

Online's mother, Broadband, had travelled thousands of miles from her feeding grounds to the shallow waters off Island Ellen, where she was born 33 years ago.

During the breeding season, mature turtles travel long distances from their feeding grounds to shallow waters off the beach where they were born. Mating takes place in the shallow waters. After mating, females go ashore at night and look for a suitable site to lay eggs.

It was the fifth and last time this nesting season that Broadband laid her eggs. Broadband dug a large hole on the beach, laid her eggs inside and covered them with sand again. Leaving her offspring to cope with their difficulties alone, she returns to the sea.

It has been a miracle that Broadband has survived at all during all these years. The green turtle is internationally recognised as a highly endangered species threatened by uncontrolled human activities. Boating and fishing activities during the breeding season disturb their breeding activities.

Broadband was once caught in a fishing net. But for her quick wit in spotting a hole in the net, she would have lost her life. She has also been hit by a boat propeller. Fortunately, her hard shell protected her but it still left a scar on the surface.

Broadband may escape from bad luck once or twice, but she knows she will join other ill-fated turtles sooner or later if such kinds of intrusive human activities continues. She prays that Online and her other children will inherit her determined character to overcome difficulties.


Decades ago, sea turtles in Hong Kong used to nest in many remote beaches including Tung O and Ha Mei Wan on Lamma Island; Tong Fok Miu Wan and Tai Long Wan on Lantau Island; and Tai Tam Bay on Hong Kong Island.

Due to urban and rural development and human activities near the areas, sea turtles no longer nest on the beaches.

Only Sham Wan on Lamma Island is still a turtle nesting site.

Graphic: CLPGLO