Success of Delayed Translocation of Loggerhead Turtle Nests



ABSTRACT  Sea turtle embryo mortality in natural nests due to environmental and anthropogenic factors can be very high. To increase hatching success of these endangered species, nest translocation to hatcheries immediately after egg-laying is a common management tool. To test the viability of delayed translocation, we moved 50 loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests to a beach hatchery after various times (0–96 hr) after egg-laying at Boavista Island (Republic of Cabo Verde, western Africa). We transported eggs in a rigid plastic container, being careful to maintain their original vertical orientation. Delayed translocation times of 0 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, 84 hours, or 96 hours after egg-laying did not have any effect on hatching success, incubation period, or hatchling size and mass. Delayed translocation slightly increased the duration of the translocation process because of extra precautions taken (e.g., maintaining axial orientation, protecting eggs from mechanical shocks). We conclude that delayed nest translocation can be done in a safe and effective way, thereby increasing the efficiency of the whole monitoring program. Finally, delayed translocation, accompanied by an evaluation of fertility, would seem to permit the removal of undeveloped eggs and to facilitate their subsequent exploitation by local communities without affecting turtle nesting success.