Two’s company, Three’s a crowd!

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She gasped for life.  Mayhem ensued.

It was mating season and she received too much attention. Unintentionally her signal for mating was a little strong and she unwittingly enticed one to many males.

Female Loggerheads reproduce at the ages of 17- 33, the mating period is usually a 6 week window, which is normally performed close to the nesting beach.

A suitable male came to court, nuzzling her head and biting the back of her neck and rear flippers.  She was receptive to his advances and did not flee.  Her suitor attached himself to the back of her shell and then with his long tail under her shell began to mate.

This bought unwanted attention from other suitors, I am not sure if they may have been younger more inexperienced suitors, however one thing is for sure they were all intent on uniting with this female.   We continued to watch whilst in the shallows three males struggled for dominance.  The 2 turtles nipped at the mating males flippers and tail, trying to discourage his amorous affair.  For at least 2-3  hours this ensued.  At times she would be gasping for air as the males weight and persistence kept her under the water.

It was evident that she was tiring, the ordeal was proving to be overwhelming.  During the time that we watched the amorous affair the tide had turned.

Loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their lives in the open ocean and in shallow coastal waters. They rarely come ashore, except for the females who briefly come ashore at night to dig their nests and deposit their eggs .  This will most likely be the very same beach where they emerged from their sandy nests many years ago

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The following morning we saw plenty of evidence of night-time activity.  With tell-tale IMG_1688turtle tracks leading back to the water’s edge on the changing tide.  Incredibly one female was very late in returning to the sea and the tide had already turned.  Incredibly we watched as she slowly made her way, in what looked to us an impossible journey.  A barrier lay between her and the changing tide.  Already fatigued from the rigorous task of making her way up the sand banks to dig out her nest, laying approximately 100 eggs and then re-covering the clutch, she now had the arduous task of clambering over rocks to reach the refreshing waters.    My heart ached for her and I wanted to pick her up and carry her to the water’s edge, but given the fact that adult Loggerhead turtles can weigh anything from 135 – 450 kg, decided not such a good idea.  To our surprise she actually did lift her weighted body up and over the rocks.  To me it seemed impossible, to her it was life.

At times she would pause and catch her breath, but inch by inch she slowly made her way over the rugged rocky ridge.  The underside of the turtle is more robust than you can imagine, we thought the rough rocks would tear and cut her underbelly but she made the journey without incident.

It was a victorious moment when she reached the water.  I am not sure who was more relieved, us or the Loggerhead turtle.  But when she touched the water, her flippers gave a victory splash as she darted off into the cooling waters.

Loggerhead turtles are considered endangered so it was extra special to see them mating and in time, the creation of new life.  It is a hard life with only about one or two out of 1000 hatchlings that survive and grow into an adult turtle.

Loggerhead turtles feed on sponges, sea anemones, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish, jellyfish and squid.

It is up to mankind not to litter the oceans with rubbish and not to encroach or interfere with nesting areas.   The Loggerhead turtle is a beautiful creature.  Let’s ensure that we keep our waterways clean, not only for the Loggerhead, but for all creatures that live in our oceans.

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