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Ecology and Conservation

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The Eastern South China Sea was once an important feeding and spawning habitat for green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). However, in the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, fishermen from Guangdong and Hainan sailed the Eastern South China Sea regularly to operate large scale fishing; in addition, extensive military and fishing operations were carried out when Dongsha Island was a Japanese colony in the Qing Dynasty. As a result, an important habitat for sea turtles was destroyed. To re-create a safe and suitable feeding and spawning habitat for marine wildlife, Dongsha Atoll National Park has been actively cooperating with the Coast Guard Administration to ensure the protection of land and marine ecological environment since establishment in 1996.

The beach in Dongsha Atoll National Park is a suitable nesting environment for sea turtles with vast space, little human interference, seagrass beds and coral reefs that can provide hatchlings adequate food sources and keep them from predators. While most of our records of sea turtle sightings are sea turtles being caught in nets by accident, in 1995 and 2001, hawksbill turtles and green turtles went ashore to lay eggs on the beach.

Sand marks of sea turtles comingashore to lay eggs
Sand marks of sea turtles comingashore to lay eggs

May 30th 2015, sea turtles have once again crawl ashore to lay eggs on this beach, and we can safely assume that the eggs were laid successfully by the size of the bunker.
The average number of days for the eggs to hatch is 50 days, and the hatchlings normally stay in the sand to absorb all the nutrients in the yolk sack and wait for sea conditions to stabilize, which takes at least 2-3 days. After that, the hatchlings choose the night when the temperature is low to climb out of the bunker to move towards the sea.
Our site staff began patrolling around the bunker with night vision cameras about a week before the hatching, to hopefully capture the birth of the hatchlings. Finally on July 24th at around 9 pm, the hatchlings were seen climbing out of the bunker. The site staff was very excited to capture this moment after many years of effective conservation to rebuild a good marine wildlife habitats.

Hatchlings climbing out of the bunker
Hatchlings climbing out of the bunker