A pregnant mother arrived silently on Monday night last week on the Los Boliches beach in Fuengirola. In the darkness she made a hole in the sand and laid 73 eggs. She carefully covered them up and left.
The mother was a loggerhead sea turtle. The future of her offspring was left at the mercy of the tides and the hundreds of people who go every day to the busy beach. There is no other record of a loggerhead turtle laying eggs on the Costa del Sol for the last 80 years.
The news of this important, even extraordinary event, soon reached the Andalusian marine sustainable management centre (CEGMA), who arrived to take care of the eggs in collaboration with Fuengirola town hall, the Local Police and the emergency services.
Immediately the experts realised that the nest was too close to the shore, and that the eggs were in danger, and the decision was made to move them. After studying the ideal place for them they decided to set up a new incubator in the sand on a Marbella beach.
Moving the eggs was complex, explained Eugenio Montes, environment advisor at the Junta de Andalucía and in charge of the operation. Of the 73 eggs, 12 were taken to Bioparc Fuengirola, given the park's experience in reproducing reptiles, to guarantee the survival of part of the family if in the end the project on the Marbella beach doesn't work
"When they hatch we'll know whether it's been successful. If we'd left them on the beach in Fuengirola the chances of survival would be zero," said Montes, who expressed his gratitude for the understanding of Fuengirola town hall.
The eggs were removed one by one, and their position was photographed before they were placed into a container to be moved.
"These initial moments are critical for the development of the embryo," said the expert, who explained that each egg must be placed in the same position as it was when it was laid by the mother, to allow it to grow and so that the temperature and humidity levels remain the same.
Members of the Civil Protection organisation in Marbella prepared the new site for the nest which has been cordoned off and protected from attacks by birds, rodents and the biggest danger of all, human beings. The nest will be carefully monitored.
Loggerhead turtles can be found in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This year there has been an increase in eggs being laid on the east Levante coast of Spain and the Balearic islands. The Junta experts had expected to find the odd nest on the Almeria coastline, but not on the Costa del Sol.
One of the possible explanations is the rising temperature of the Mediterranean Sea which is being more tropical. The second, according to Montes, is that the mother had been feeding off the Malaga coastline and decided that this would be a good place, due to the quality of the water.
Incubation time for this kind of turtle eggs is 50 to 60 days. A committee of experts will decide what to do once they have hatched. The baby turtles born at Bioparc will be released into the sea. The experts will do all they can to ensure that the family will be reunited in the sea, but Mother Nature will have the final say.