Brightly-painted pingpong balls will double as sea turtle eggs Sunday in the Department of Environment’s inaugural Easter turtle-egg hunt. (photo courtesy of Dean Hochman)
Blacktip Island children of all ages will celebrate Easter Sunday with a Department of Environment-sponsored sea turtle egg hunt along the small Caribbean island’s beaches to raise awareness of endangered sea turtle nests, DoE officials said.
“They’re not real turtle nests, of course,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “It’s the wrong season. But when nesting season comes around this summer, we aim to have a small army of beach walkers who know what to look for so we can track all of the green and loggerhead turtle hatchings.
“We dug fake nests all over the island and filled them with dyed pingpong balls to simulate turtle eggs,” Schrader said. “Then we used tractor tires to simulate turtle tracks up the beach. The kids dig into them like little terriers—sand flies everywhere. The smaller ones go in head-first to their waists.”
Some on the island criticized the activity.
“You’re teaching children to dig up turtle nests. That can’t end well,” Frank Maples said. “Most adults can make the distinction between a spring egg hunt and summer nest spotting, but some of the younger kiddos can’t. This could lead to hordes of preschoolers destroying endangered nests in a few months’ time.”
Organizers downplayed such scenarios.
“Kids are smarter than that. And we explain the difference,” DoE volunteer Melissa Snapper said. “Plus, there’s only about three kids on the island, so, worst case, they can’t do too much damage. It’s the half-wit adults we’re worried about. But that’ll be more than offset by our raising awareness of the nests. A bigger danger is folks getting snake bit.”
Local retailers are supporting the hunt.
“We’ll have food and drink booths set up near every faux-nest site,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort manager Kay Valve said. “We’ll serve turtle-related fare like turtle steaks and turtle medallions. There’ll be no mock-turtle soup, but we will have real-turtle soup and mock anyone who eats it. Oh, and chocolate turtles, too, if the heat doesn’t melt them.
“There’ll also be a nest-digging contest, a crawl-up-the-beach-on-your-belly contest and pin the head on the turtle game,” Valve said. “We’ll also have pingpong tables and paddles for anyone who fancies a game with the faux eggs they find.”
Local bands The Social Morays and Turtlehead will perform in the evening.