Nesting sea turtles     Click for the chartlet

The sailor's pub on the waterfront, as we could name Oma's (granny's) warung (we were even allowed to repair sails there), was closed by the end of May. Oma will be 70 next month and although she is a tough cookie, this is a good reason to do something different with your life. We wanted to make a great farewell party and as the Dutch are the rich people herethey are the ones to organize a big party. We collected 400 euros and 25 kg of fish from the Dutch fish company in Domburg.
With 400 euros one can do a lot here in Suriname. We arranged for a party tent complete with decoration, a gamelan orchestra, snacks and 125 fried fishes. Of course Oma could not be fooled and she knew something was going on behind her back. It all turned out to be a great party, Oma was in tears and could only stop crying when one of the street dogs bit a balloon to pieces.
PHOTO 1 The party lasted to midnight and the story made the frontpage of the national newspapers!

In the meantime we also have 10 puppies. Suriname is full of street dogs and Domburg square is crowded with them. One of the pregnant dogs (we named her Ramona) was extremely heavy so we helped her a bit. Fish heads, meat and real dog food so now she's got the time to care for all her puppies, who drink in shifts. Ramona feels protected by the Dutch and she even moved her nest (10 puppies of 5 days old) from one pub to the other, as we moved our happy hour next door after Oma closed her shop.
PHOTO 2 Unfortunately it is some kind of a 10 little niggers story, as people start taking the puppies to their homes only at two weeks of age.

The 10 little niggers story also applies to the sea turtles, who beach and nest here in Surinam. Sea turtles prefer easy accessible beaches without natural barriers such as coral and there are only a few beaches of this type in the world; and two of them are located in Suriname. You see the green turtle here, the warana and the most impressive sea turtle: the leatherback, about 2 meters long and weighing 600-1000 kgs.
Suriname's most famous nesting beach is Galibi, on the east side near the French-Guyanese border. The indigenous are monopolizing the area and the worst thing is that they rob the eggs out of the nests. The Surinamese government tries to stop this, but without success. Apparently they offer the indigenous too little as they continue their malpractices. The eggs are expensive and one nest contains about 60 to 140 eggs. And one turtle nests three to eight times per season (February to August)!

Apart from men, the sea turtle has many other enemies. Jaguars hunt on the beach, and on the turtle's return into the sea the sharks are waiting. On their first steps into the sea, the baby turtles are confronted with an army of enemies: dogs, vultures, crabs and sharks are all waiting because they crave a nice bite of baby turtle.

We really wanted to see turtles but Galibi was not very much to our liking. Fortunately we discovered that the second nesting beach can be visited as well: Matapica, 30 km away from Paramaribo and accessible by boat through the swamps and our return trip was by… helicopter.

The route through the swamps (lots of birds) was quite spectacular. The area looks like flooded land where you can only sail in the smallest boats, and the skipper has to be very experienced with his outboard engine as the propellor often touches mud. Sometimes you have to get out and push the boat, while the mud sucks around your ankles.  PHOTO 3A And one time to our surprise the boat was sailed right onto a dyke, which appeared to be a crossing of land like we experience in the Netherlands when we are speed skating. PHOTO 4A Once arrived on Matapica beach we immediately spotted baby sea turtles, who had just come out of their egg. PHOTO 5 And in the evening the highlight: the leatherback doing her job. PHOTO 6
The nesting of a sea turtle is an impressive sight. The walk from coastline to the sandy beach is already a tough job, and then they have to dig a hole of about 50 cm deep before she can start laying her eggs! This must be extremely exerting, judging by the amount of groaning and moaning. After the last egg is layed
PHOTO 6A, the sea turtle covers her nest and makes a fake nest to distract robbers. Only when this is finished, she can finally return into the sea. PHOTO 7
At Matapica a lot of work is done by volunteers from Stinasu, the Nature Preserving Organisation in Suriname. Supervisors check the area and every 12 hours (after the flood) the new nests are counted and marked, so they can also update on which nests have come out. This is how we know that only one out of thousand baby sea turtles makes it to adult. And if you keep in mind how many eggs have to be laid to produce one baby turtle...

Click to see a short movie about a leatherback baby

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