After 2 more days of sunny mornings, mid afternoon tropical shower and patrols with high tides and few turtles, I woke up on Thursday with a feeling that something big had happened. So at 7:30 am I wandered across the yard to check the hatchery (we had 5 nests that should be hatching any day now). When I arrived the hatchery was covered in tortugitas (baby turtles)! The high tide had made its way into the hatchery and moved all our baskets, so when the nest hatched all the babies got loose. I ran and got the coordinator and within 2 minutes we were back in there with a bucket and gloves collecting all 81 of our fresh hatchlings. We walked down the waters edge and poured the babies into the sand and all 81 made a b-line for the water. As they ran they seemed to stop as they heard the water coming and braced themselves for the wave. When they finally reached the water some were pushed back up to the top of the beach where they had started, while others were able to swim into the water. Once the babies were in the water you could see all their little heads bobbing until a wave came and then they quickly duck dove under and popped up on the other side of the wave
Since almost all of the eggs had hatched we had to excavated the nest to see what happened with all of the eggs that didn’t hatch and look for babies that didn’t make it to the surface. We collected the whole nest in a big blue bucket and took it to the waters edge and sorted the remnants and counted all the eggs. We found 10 eggs that had not hatched and we had to open each one to see the development stage. yes rotten turtle eggs have about the same horrible smell as a rotten chicken egg. 5 of the eggs were not fertilized or showed no development at all so they smelled disgusting. 3 that when open there was development but it appeared a bug or something had gotten in and 'pipped' the baby. Then the exciting part 1 baby still alive and kept trying to run to the ocean and another (I named Felipe) who was still struggling to get out of his little egg.
The first one was strong enough to make the long venture into the ocean but Felipe kept just laying with his head in the sand and barely moving. So we put some sand in out big blue bucket and brought Felipe into my room where he would stay until he was strong enough to be released. When turtles emerge from their egg they have a food storage on their stomach and it is enough food for 2 days. 2 days is an average how long it takes to make it from the nest to the surface. Eating this food storage gives them the strength to make the long journey ahead. Since Felipe was still in his egg when we found him he had a large yellow food storage on his belly, his shell was still soft and he was a little small compared to his brothers and sisters.
For the next day and a half I would check on my baby Felipe every couple hours in hopes that he was strong enough to make it to the ocean. In the mean time another nest hatched with another 80+ eggs and returning the babies was just as special as the first. However nothing has been as special as releasing Felipe.
Midmorning on September 2nd, we found a lone turtle in the hatchery and when I went to release it, I brought Felipe as well. The lone baby when set in the sand began the run towards the ocean but Felipe still laid there occasionally moving his front flippers. So I pick him up and followed the lone turtle out to sea. While holding Felipe in the waves something happened, HE FINALLY WOKE UP AND KNEW WHAT HE HAD TO DO!!!! So I placed him in the same and he started to walk, you could see the drive in his eyes he was gunna make it to the sea. I watched him for over a half hour fight to walk through the sand. It seriously was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Finally he make it to the waters edge and instead of catching the wave and swimming to sea he was flipped over and push back to the top of the beach. At this point I thought maybe he still isn't ready and I should return him to the bucket and let him rest we could try to release again later. But instead of being defeated Felipe walked faster, tried harder. The desire to make the trek to the sea was still there if not even stronger. So he continued to walk this time when the wave got him and he flipped over I quickly helped him back and thought "just keep swimming! Nadar! Nadar! Nadar!" (I figured he probably understood Spanish and not English being from Costa Rica and all.) After the third little wave, he was doing it. I followed him out and could see his little head bobbing like the others and he even ducked under the waves! Even though I know he was smaller and less prepared than his brothers and sisters I wanna think that maybe in 13 years I will be back in Costa Rica and I will see my little Felipe. Well I guess Felipe would have to be Felipita for me to see again on the beach but either way I hope my little baby will be able to make the long journey ahead for a Lora tortuga.