Updated: Sep 18, 2019
So, you are sitting sipping a refreshing long Island tree on your beach deck chair when the sand beneath you begins to shake.
Is it an earthquake or a Tsunami warning perhaps? Nope, its 33 baby turtles who have just hatched and are making a mad scramble to the surface to take their first gulp of breath. They are on their own with no one to take care of them.
Sitting down on the Sanur beach with Richard Parker, I get the low down on these amazingly adorable “Olive Ridley” turtles.
Richard tells me that June, July and August are the primary months for the turtles to hatch. This means that the locals, himself included, are on the lookout on the beach for any unusual movement.
The mother comes onto the beach at high tide to dig and lay her eggs. Unfortunately, the timing of the babies hatching isn’t always at the most convenient time. When the tide is out, the turtles would have 1 km of treacherous ground to cover whilst under the eye of scavenging birds above.
Instinctively after sea turtle hatchlings crawl from their nests in the sand, they scurry to the water’s edge where the waves can grab them and carry them out to sea.
In this last batch (born on the 30th July), the locals saved every single baby and tenderly placed them into the waiting haven in the form of a timber water tank nearby.
Richard, along with several other locals then tend the turtles, feeding them scraps of fish from the local cafes, ensuring they get a better start to life than scrambling their way to the ocean where the rate of success is slim.
After tending for these babies over around 4 months, they are then released safely into the ocean to go forth and multiply. That is if they survive then next 20 years or so before they are old enough to breed.
There is also the added danger of the turtle’s eating trash. Bali waters have plenty of plastic rubbish floating around. When the turtles eat trash, it can block their digestive tract so that food can’t pass through. This causes starvation.
Since sea turtles spend their lives at sea, out of the sight of humans, researches still don’t know that much about them. This makes Richard’s job of caring for these mysterious creatures even more of a challenge.
Asking Richard how he came to be the primary caretaker of the turtles he tells me that he first visited these shores back in 1970 when he was a long-haired, hippy surfer. With regular trips leading up to the sale of his business in Australia, retiring in Bali seemed the most sensible choice.
Richard fell in love with the turtles when he saw a few being rescued several years ago- so out came the tools and the water tanks were created. Further time on the computer learning about breeding cycles and incubation times makes Richard unquestionably now one of Sanur’s best turtle experts.