Less than one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings make it to adulthood, so it is very important that their journey to the sea is as stress free as possible. However this has not been the case for some of the hatchlings on some of the nesting beaches of Kefalonia due to beach bars, street lights and nearby residential areas.
Hatchlings can be disoriented by artificial light which means they spend longer time on the beach than they should, and in many cases this has resulted in fatalities due to dehydration or predation. To try to reduce disorientation we perform weekly surveys to assess the vulnerability of nests to light pollution. For acute levels of light pollution, we will shade the nest from the lights. This involves placing a fence around the sides of the nest so when the hatchlings emerge from the sand they will only see the light of the horizon above the sea.
However, for beaches with excessive light pollution, such as Makris Gialos, shading is not sufficient. In such a case, we have a team placing a box over the nest, so that when the hatchlings come out they are in complete darkness. They can then be carefully moved and released at a darker section of the beach and allowed to crawl safely to sea.
In many cases, local residents have agreed to switch off or shade their lights, to help hatchlings crawl towards the sea. We would like to thank all of the residents on Megali Ammos who are continuing to turn off their lights every night during this season and those who have found and reported disorientated hatchlings on the beach.
Written by Rachel Byrne