My favorite part was when we saw the little baby turtles swimming in their pool. There were about 50 tiny turtles that we got to pick up. When you pick them up, they squirm around and try to push your fingers of them with their flippers. Once I put my hand in the water, and one turtle just climbed right on!
I really liked the turtle hatchery. It was awesome!
Sri Lanka, as an equatorial country in the Eastern Hemisphere, is full of two things, Russian tourists and wildlife reserves. The Russians, you see everywhere, but the wildlife (and I don't mean Russians drinking at the pool after 11 AM), you have to drive 4-5 bumpy-hours inland to see, so we opted for a quick jaunt to one of several turtle hatcheries just 30-minutes down the beach.
As was explained to us, these hatcheries pay the locals to bring them the newly dropped turtle eggs they find every morning on the beach, where they are carefully incubated and stand a much, much greater chance of survival (only 1-2 in 1,000 survive the natural hatching process and trek back to the ocean we were told) - so it seems like a win-win. The only difficulty we had understanding (somewhat answered in broken English) was how their math worked?
It seemed they had about 500 eggs incubating in sand mounds, and about 200 hatchlings in nearby tanks. Then, about 10 young turtles (1-3 years old) and then 3-4 5-year olds ready to be 'sea released'. But no amount of 'tourist pantomime' could get across our question of the diminishing numbers. Do they die along the age progression even while in captivity? Are they given to other hatcheries? Are they sold as 'farmed meat'? We never could understand the answers.
After the infamous 2004 Tsunami (which killed 50,000 in Sri Lanka, and over 3,000 near where we are staying), many of the international relief volunteers spent years rebuilding some of these hatcheries and we saw and heard many wonderful stories and pictures along this vain. We made a donation and the kids really had a good time holding the smaller (and bigger) turtles, but I am still not sure we understand the 'turtlenomics' of the Sri Lankan hatcheries? Turtle protection centers? Tourists traps? Production farms? All of the above...?
P.S. See below - they even had a 'turtle hospital' for turtles recovering from fish-net injuries, and a few rare blind and albino turtles.
P.S.S. Late breaking news - Suzanne believes she heard that the majority of the turtle hatchlings are returned to the sea a few months after hatching as even just those weeks of protection will help them fight off both the predators on the beach, as well as somewhat increase their chances against the small sharks in the water. What - there were small sharks where we were swimming?