Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

Located on Park Beach on the island of Bequia in the chain of islands known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary is a private marine conservation project.

The goal of the project is to save the hawksbill turtle from extinction.

Sea turtles like the hawksbill can live two hundred years or more.  They do not start reproducing until they are about twenty five years old.  In the wild it is estimated that only one in one thousand hatchlings make it to maturity. 

The turtles were once hunted for their shells that were used to make buttons and other decorative items.  Plastics have saved the turtles from that, but today both the adults and their eggs are hunted for consumption.

Human development along beaches has also taken its toll.  Instinctively, hatchlings travel towards moonlight to find the water, but bright lights can confuse them and make them go the wrong way.

At the age of 57, Orton King retired for being a skin-diving fisherman and dedicated his life to saving the turtles.  Now at age 75, “Brother” King has an interesting view on life.  He stated that when you die, it will not be important how much you have accumulate, but what you have done with your life.

Brother King keeps the turtles in sea-water ponds, feeding them on canned tuna for the first six months.

Then they are fed small fish (3”) until they are 3 years old (about 14”).  Then they are released into the ocean.  This gives them a much better chance of surviving to maturity.  He estimates that about fifty out one hundred he releases survives to maturity.

We found the sanctuary to be neat and clean.  All of the creatures under Brother King’s care were healthy and happy, including the many dogs and goats.  But, the real treat was meeting Brother King.

Because his ocean front property is so spectacular it is being sought after by developers.  There has been some pressure from the government in St. Vincent to, as Brother King says, “Shove me into the ocean!”  

Should you wish to contribute to Brother King’s project:

Orton G. King
P.O. Box 36
Union Vale, Bequia
St. Vincent & The Grenadines

Cell: 784 493 3231  784 532 8013
Tel: 784.458.3245   784 458 3596
Fax: 784 457 3322

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