Turtles have hatched in Golden Bay in a first-in-a-generation event closely watched by environmentalists.

Just yesterday, Times of Malta had quoted officials saying that the storms that lashed the islands over the weekend could mean an early hatching, but the rain also brought the risk of drowning the fragile eggs.

There was also concern about lights at the bay.

However, everything appeared normal last night as 66 turtles hatched in pitch darkness and made their way to the sea after 56 days of incubation as environmentalists celebrated in silence.

Lights were kept to a minimum as soon as movement was detected at about 2am. But since there was no moonlight, environmentalists used special infrared lights to guide the young turtles to the sea amid fears they could be disoriented by the lights of the hotel.

The turtle nest at Golden Bay.The turtle nest at Golden Bay.

Over the past weeks volunteers dug a trench from the nest to the sea to help the hatchlings on their way.

The mother turtle was observed lumbering up the beach and laying her eggs on August 1 and that part of the bay has been closed off and kept under round-the-clock watch ever since.

Last night's event was monitored by officials from Nature Trust and the Environment Authority (ERA). The police closed off the area and nobody was allowed near.

At 4.10am, when it was thought that the hatching episode was over, a last hatchling that had just emerged was noticed making its way to sea. The entire operation continued till about 4.20am, after which a thorough check was made around the bay for any stranded hatchlings. But none were found, the ERA said in a statement.

It hoped that a good number of these turtles would reach adult hood and return to Malta for other nesting episodes in 25 to 30 years.

The turtle nesting was the first since 2012, when a loggerhead turtle laid eggs at ─ánejna Bay, the first recorded in decades. Those eggs never hatched, with environmental authorities concluding they had become water-logged due to the underlying blue clay.

Loggerhead turtles tend to lay between three and six nests a season, with up to 130 eggs in each nest. Female turtles eventually return to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.

The turtles are classified as globally endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Capturing or killing, as well as deliberately disturbing turtles or their eggs, is prohibited by law.


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