Up from the Sand: In French Guiana, Giant Leatherback Turtles Emerge from the Surf in an Ancient Ritual of Life
Gilbertas, Bernadette, International Wildlife
Enormous and all aglow, the moon slowly makes its appearance at the oceanside Indian village of Yalimapo in French Guiana. Dividing the shadowy darkness, it spotlights wave crests, leaving the troughs unlit. In this mottled surf, an indistinguishable bulge of water forms, disappears, then swirls closer. Suddenly, a gigantic and shiny mass raises itself onto the shore. The leatherback sea turtle has arrived.
For 27 years each night in late spring, scientists have watched these endangered reptiles descend on the beach at Yalimapo on the northern shoulder of South America. They will lay their eggs in the sand, and a mysterious cycle of life will begin again, but not before a gauntlet of perils has conspired to make this great ocean beast a symbol of troubled seas.
Of the eight sea turtle species, the leatherback is the largest. Individuals average about 440 kilograms (970 lbs.), and their soft backs -- which consist not of shell but of an assembly of small, very fine bony plates supporting a layer of dense, skin-covered fat -- can reach up to 1.9 meters (6.2 ft.) in length.
Little is …
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Publication information: Article title: Up from the Sand: In French Guiana, Giant Leatherback Turtles Emerge from the Surf in an Ancient Ritual of Life. Contributors: Gilbertas, Bernadette - Author. Magazine title: International Wildlife. Volume: 28. Issue: 5 Publication date: September-October 1998. Page number: 30+. © 1994 National Wildlife Federation. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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