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Ship Logs

Baby Honu Are Emerging
September 12, 2002
Posted by: Ann Bell Hudgins

Baby Honu hatchling.Incredible! We arrived at French Frigate Shoals yesterday morning at the height of the turtle hatching season. Four hundred and fifty nesting female turtles were recently counted on East Island (one of eight sandy islets within the large atoll), the second highest number recorded here in history! The islands and islets of this atoll are literally 'busting open at the seams' as hundreds of baby honu, or green sea turtles, are emerging from their nests to voyage out to sea. Female turtles use their flippers to dig wide, four-foot holes in the sand to lay their eggs. A Refuge biologist is quoted as saying that it looks like East Island was bombed because of the hundreds of nest impressions that can be seen during nesting season. This tiny sand spit is an islet with a surface area about the size of a school cafeteria. The estimated number of female turtles nesting on the atoll is 800! If each female lays three nests holding an average of 100 eggs per nest that amounts to a total of 240,000 hatchlings each season.

Baby turtles running to sea.Most all of the green sea turtles foraging around the main Hawaiian Islands were hatched from the sands of French Frigate Shoals. Sea turtle biologist, George Balazs recorded that one healthy turtle who was tracked by scientists cruised from French Frigate Shoals at 2.0 km/hr covering a distance of 1,130 km during her 23 day migration to Kane'ohe Bay, on the main Hawaiian island of O`ahu. When they are old enough (around 20 -25 years old) these turtles return as mature adults to lay eggs in the same place their flippers first touched the sea.

A Native Hawaiian educator who is on our team, Kekuewa Kikiloi tells me that honu are a very special marine animal to the Native Hawaiian people. Tradition tells them that these animals are thought of as `aumakua or ancestral guardians to some and should be treated with respect and care.

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Ann Bell Hudgins


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