Eggs are cracking as the small heads of loggerhead sea turtles, known as Caretta caretta, are emerging from their sandy nests along the beach. This is a site a group of activists hopes to witness every morning.
The team has been camping out on a beach in Belek in the southern Turkish province of Antalya for four months, just to be able to watch baby Caretta carettas hatch from their shells and help the infants if needed. Their work ensures the endangered species can continue their life cycle without human disturbances and other dangers ahead.
Volunteers track each baby turtle, sometimes offering a little push if they are stuck in the sand, on their journey to their ultimate home: the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Belek is one of the largest breeding grounds for turtles in the Mediterranean and this year, it hosted more than 3,000 nests. The hatching season continues until late September, with activists tracking each stage until the last baby turtle makes it to the sea.
Kerem Yekta Atatunç is the assistant manager of the Observation and Protection of Loggerhead Sea Turtles project being carried out by academics and a maritime research association. Atatunç says the project was launched 22 years ago and they work in an area stretching 30 kilometers (18.65 miles).
When they first started, there were only about 500 nests. Last year, the figure reached 3,200. Atatunç and fellow volunteers arrive on the beach every morning and check every nest, big or small, to see whether any baby turtles have been left behind and ensure that all reach the sea. They also count the eggs and record them in a database.
“Some are stuck inside the nest and await certain death. We help them and put them back on their path to the sea. It is a blissful moment, to know that you save the children of a species under threat of extinction,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).