by Deasy Lontoh, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
Greetings from Papua! I’m back to study leatherback sea turtle reproduction for my thesis, this time for three and a half months. There are no hatcheries this year so I have to count turtle eggs as they are dropped into the nest while the females are laying.
When a female leatherback digs her nest, I dig a body pit for myself directly behind her. My body pit must be deep enough so I can comfortably place my hands underneath the female’s cloaca throughout the laying process. I tally the number of yolked and yolkless eggs in my head, and pass some eggs to a partner who measures and weighs them.
The eggs have to be returned into the nest before the female covers her nest, so we work very efficiently. Oftentimes the female drops more than one yolked egg at a time. Typically she drops the yolkless eggs at the end of the laying process, but sometimes she drops them at the same time as the yolked eggs. To keep the egg counts straight, my partner and I hardly talk to each other during sampling. It’s definitely a handful!
Read more about Deasy’s sea turtle work in Indonesia: