Hey… it’s been quite some time. But the good news is: It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to tell. I haven’t written for so long because I just couldn’t find the time and tranquility as we’ve been so overwhelmed by this years’ turtle season. Here are all the details:
The official MEMANTA hatchery is up
After two years working with a provisional hatchery that we had built close to our house, about 200 metres away from the beachfront, the time had finally come: We built a permanent, fully-closed hatchery closer to the beach that holds space for around 50 nests at a time. The hatchery is fully secured against human intruders and all kinds of animals. Also, it is shaded in order to secure favourable temperatures and avoid a female-biased sex ratio (climate change and stuff…).
Unfortunately, the hatchery soon resulted too small. Especially in late September, our hatchery became super crowded as the older nests hadn’t hatched yet while more and more were coming in! Also, we had started putting some nests in the ground, as hatcheries “usually” do it. The thing is that in this case, you have to space out the nests more (the rule of thumb says 1m) so that bacteria etc. from one nest can’t spread to the others. With bag hatcheries, you don’t have that issue and can put the bags real close to each other.
We found that the hatching success is roughly the same for both methods, but bag hatcheries do create more waste and the nests take longer to hatch as they cool down quite a bit during the night. Next season, we would like to keep working with both methods – some nests we’ll put in our iconic red bags and some we’ll put in the ground.
Needless to say… we’ll then have to double the size of our hatchery!
113 nests and 3 interns
This year there were zero Hawksbill nests for us, which means that the season started a bit later than in 2020. The first Olive Ridley turtles started nesting on the beach in late July. Then it went real crazy between mid August and mid October – because that’s the turtle high season in Venecia!
By mid September, we had around 50 nests in our hatchery. In early December, we bought the very last Olive Ridley nest for this season – we had already surpassed our goal of 100 nests!
As usual, we bought most of our nests from local egg collectors. Pancho, who already worked with us last season, brought by far the most nests. But there were also some others guys who kept bringing us eggs, which of course made us very happy!
We also did frequent night patrols this year, where we either found turtles on our own or found turtles that were already “guarded” by whoever came first. For us, it’s always best to collect the eggs ourselves in order to ensure best practices when handling and transporting the eggs. So whenever we saw someone with a turtle, we offered them to take the nest and pay them right away on the beach. Most of the people happily agreed.
With time, more and more people offered to sell their nests to us. At one point, we had to start turning down some of them – there simply wasn’t enough space and enough money to accept so many nests! You see, we still only get hold of 10-20% of the nests that are being laid on this beach. But for now, this must be enough in order to secure the future well-being of the population.
The increased collaboration with the local egg collectors wasn’t the only reason to celebrate: We had our first interns staying with us!
First, we welcomed biology student Andrea from Mexico and biology graduate Walkiri from Nicaragua who stayed for the whole month of September. They had to fill a loooot of nest bags and we had the best night patrols ever. Unfortunately, they only saw few nests hatch as they had to leave so early in the season.
Soon after that, we welcomed geography student Sina from Germany who had never worked with sea turtles before. She was, of course, thoroughly trained and got the whole program – dozens of new nests, some pretty sweet turtle adventures on the beach, and hundreds of babyturtles. She also did nest exhumations and took care of our data.
Also, we welcomed our first AirBnB guests this year! They stayed in our beautiful rustic cabin and were lucky enough to see various nests being released. Apart from that, we spent some time with Simone, Arturo and Benita from the german NGO MSV Nicaragua who run a sea turtle hatchery on a beach across the estuary. They are our biggest financial supporters as they have facilitated hundreds of Euros for the purchase of sea turtle eggs. THANK YOU!
The great Green Turtle surprise
This beach is full of surprises. With an approximate length of 13 km, it’s impossible to walk it all. Also, we haven’t been able to start our monitoring program (which means doing a census each morning and counting all the nesting activity of the previous night) due to limited human resources. But fortunately, news spread quickly in the village, so we soon heard that some Green Turtles had started nesting in late October.
When we found out that some of the nests of this rare, endangered sea turtle species (which is my favourite, by the way!) still got sold to the market and NOT to the hatcheries, we were quick to react and offered a higher price exclusively for Green Turtle nests. As soon as people were made aware of this, they started coming to us!
We now have 8 Green Turtle nests from at least 4 different individuals in our hatchery, and I couldn’t be more proud. There are still a few nests we didn’t get hold of, but this is already a great achievement. Remember: Last year we only had 1 Green Turtle nest, and I thought it to be a really rare occasion. Turns out: There are quite a few Green Turtles around – at least this year.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue working with these amazing reptiles in the future. The last adult Green Turtle I personally encountered was in 2015 in Costa Rica – this year I saw two of them close to our beachfront property!
We keep having little adventures
Our “job” makes it very difficult to take some time off and escape. There’s always something that needs to be done, fixed and repaired. Then there’s tons of nests in the hatchery and noone to help us OR we have guests to attend. And even when we could take some time off to travel… we realize we need to spend the money on something else.
So for the past years we limited ourselves to trips in the close surroundings, to Chinandega and very occasionally to Managua. Instead of going out to a nice bar or restaurant, we rather sit down on the beach with a few beers in our hand or wait for the infamous sunday parties in the village to happen.
Fortunately there’s still stuff to discover in Venecia and we haven’t gotten sick of it! We don’t only have this looong stretch of beach, but also an extensive beachfront forest, agricultural farms, mangroves, the estuary and well-hidden rural villages. Also, we finally managed to hike up the Cosiguina volcano – which was the first time in years I actually went above 600 m, haha. But just see for yourself!
It will be an eventful dry season
So the turtles have stopped coming and the hatchery is getting emptier each day. The rains already stopped mid November after a very dry and mosquito-free October. Now, after spending months being awake at night and sleeping until late, we’re adapting to a new schedule. We have to wake up early to get things done before the midday heat sets in. Also, we’re busy watering our plants again.
But this dry season won’t be boring at all. We’re expecting more interns and volunteers to come in January/February while we keep answering requests for the next turtle season. We’re preparing some projects that have been on hold since early 2020, like finally getting our chicken coop and organic vegetable garden up. Also, we want to develop more touristic offers in Venecia for those who love hiking and exploring.
So I guess you’ll hear again from me in a few months. Meanwhile, why don’t you have a look at our volunteer program or adopt a nest for the 2022 season?!