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They took their first steps during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday: a natural event that we had been anticipating for some days here in Badesi. Fifty-one small yet particularly lively Caretta-Caretta hatchlings emerged from the beach at Li Junchi in Badesi and made their way to the open sea. Protecting them were specialists and volunteers from Crama, the Asinara Marine Animal Recovery Centre, along with numerous onlookers who had come to witness this emotionally touching and tender event.
Li Junchi Beach, a Blue Flag holder since 2016, has proven to be an ideal habitat for the Caretta-Caretta sea turtles. Their presence on the northern coasts of Sardinia is also an important indicator of clean and healthy waters. A reproductive adventure that had to face some unexpected challenges, including two nest relocations, but concluded in the best possible way with the hatching of 51 out of 75 laid eggs. The nest plays an important role in the survival of this species. The eggs were monitored from the time they were laid on July 6th, and have been continuously watched since day fifty thanks to a specially installed trail camera.
“The hatching was entirely unexpected; we were anticipating the usual hole in the sand that signals movements in the lower layers of the nesting chamber. Instead, the Badesi turtle hatchlings emerged from the sand without any prior warning,” volunteers from Crama told the Sardinian newspaper La Nuova Sardegna.
This is the most common species in the Mediterranean, but it is increasingly vulnerable. It is the focus of conservation and protection efforts from the reproductive stage and throughout its entire life. These omnivorous animals, sadly, are often found in the Mediterranean with bags, caps, nets, and other plastic items in their stomachs, having mistaken them for the mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and jellyfish on which they feed. Many others are accidentally caught during fishing activities.
Measuring 5 cm at birth, the adult Caretta-Caretta turtle can grow between 80 to 140 cm and weigh between 100 to 160 kg. With its reddish-brown shell, it prefers temperate waters and spends most of its life in the deep sea, occasionally coming to the surface to breathe. After migrations of thousands of kilometres, the females tend to return to the beaches where they were born to reproduce after 20-30 years, thanks to their incredible ability to find their original habitat.
In summer, after mating in water, the female waits for the right moment to lay around a hundred eggs in deep holes dug with her hind flippers. Once carefully covered to protect them from predators and to maintain a constant temperature, they return to the sea. The warmth of the soil acts as an incubator for the eggs for about two months, but that’s not all: the sand temperature determines the sex of the turtles. Those laid in the upper layers, where the temperature exceeds 29 degrees, will be females; those laid deeper, where the temperature is lower, will be males. In an initial dash towards the sea, they will leave those beaches, their home, awaiting a new return.