Operation Jairo has been patrolling the shores of Barbuda for close to one week now and is starting to get a better picture of the season’s sea turtle nesting activity. Barbuda was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017, which destroyed 90% of structures on the island and devastated the shoreline. One year later, we were surprised to see that the vegetation lining the beach was still severely damaged. Where we expected new shoots and regrowth, many of the coastal shrubs appeared brown and shriveled, and low lying beach grasses and vines were almost absent. For hawksbill turtles, which nest at the vegetation line, this is significant. Nonetheless, combing some 11 miles of shoreline, by night and early mornings, the team has recorded 59 nesting activities so far.
On our first night, we had a lucky start, watching a leatherback nest hatch, a mother leatherback laying her eggs, and a nest of hawksbill hatchlings unexpectedly crawling over our drone pilot’s toes while he was flying a drone patrol! Because of very windy weather, we have had to be vigilant tracking nests, as the wind blasting over the beach quickly erases the tracks left in the sand. The patrol teams have been brilliant, putting up with long patrols hours and wet dinghy rides up and down the coast! This coming week we will be expecting some of the nesters already recorded to return to the beach, the night vision drone is proving to be an excellent tool in helping to ensure we won’t miss them.