Menu

Planet Earth II

Every turtle featured in harrowing Planet Earth II segment was saved

By Kara Segedin

It was one of the most harrowing sequences in Planet Earth II

Hundreds of newly hatched hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), confused by the bright artificial lights of the city lights, are drawn away from the sea and into the dangerous urban centre.

Much to the relief of concerned viewers, as this behind-the-scenes video shows, the BBC Earth crew broke with the filmmaking tradition of observation only and worked with local conservationists to rescue every hatchling they came across.

For more than 20 years, volunteers from the Barbados Sea Turtle Project patrol the island every night during the nesting season to make sure as many hatchlings as possible find their way to the sea.

“Without human intervention they have a very, very, very small chance of survival,” says Carla Daniel, Deputy Field Director of the Barbados Sea Turtles Project.

When the hatchlings first emerge from the sand, they orientate themselves in the direction of the brightest light, explains Daniel. In normal conditions, this would be thelight of the full moon reflected on the ocean, but this light is no match for the brightness of the city’s artificial lights.

“Out of every thousand hatchlings that get down to the water and go in, only one of them will survive.”

And this does not include the hatchlings that are eaten by predators, crushed on busy roads, fall into drains or dry out on the sand.

“There are many times that everything feels kind of pointless,” says Daniel. “So this is one of those things where we all have to hold hands and come together and agree to make a difference”

“If there was one single thing that I would say is necessary for change is for you to get up. Go out of your house and do something,”

Sign-up for the BBC Earth newsletter

Explore more of BBC Earth

By Kara Segedin

Keep Exploring