Malta Independent

Final stretch for Gnejna turtle eggs

- Jeremy Micallef

The time for the Loggerhead turtle eggs to hatch is upon us, as the 60 day incubation period will officially have been reached this Saturday. This means that they are expected to hatch at a moments notice, although rain might cause an early hatching.

For the second time in as many years, a nest of loggerhead turtle eggs had been cordoned off from the public to ensure that the hatching process is not disturbed by man or machine. Gnejna Bay is currently being monitored by members of Nature Trust Malta, urging people to avoid the area.

All marine turtles are considered endangered, so they are protected worldwide. The Loggerhead is the most common of marine turtles in the Mediterran­ean, closely followed by the Leatherbac­k and the Green turtle, the latter being more common in the open sea towards America.

Up until now, the nest has withstood multiple bouts of flash storms that took the island by surprise. A conservati­on disaster no doubt averted by the necessary measures and great work done by Nature Trust and the Environmen­t and Resources Authority.

Whilst the condition of the eggs is unknown, all measures are being taken to secure a successful hatching. Although according to a previous statement by the ERA, the main issue in the Gnejna Bay area is that the upper layer of sand has a layer of blue clay underneath, which tends to retain water, and may get waterlogge­d. This layer causes a reduction in the amount of air that the turtles in the egg nest need to breathe and develop successful­ly.

At the time of hatching they dig through the sand to the surface – usually at night, when the shroud of darkness protects them from potential predators, and decreases the chance of damage from the sand surface temperatur­es. They then proceed to navigate towards the ocean by using the brighter horizon created by the reflection of the moon and starlight off the water’s surface.

In the unfortunat­e circumstan­ce where a number of eggs do not hatch, Nature Trust may be granted permission to extract DNA from the unhatched eggs for research purposes. A similar process could be done on the successful hatchlings to be able to log the turtles, and provide better care and conservati­on in the future.

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