Sea Turtle Returns to Nesting Beach to Lay Eggs, but Finds an Airstrip Instead

April 20, 2019 Updated: April 25, 2019

One green sea turtle was recently forced to lay her eggs on the tarmac of a new airport, but luckily, locals were there to help save the day. Is this a sign of the times? It was not how she remembered her birthplace to be, and now she had returned to deposit her own clutch of eggs.

Sea turtles have been enjoying Earth’s oceans for millions of years and play an important part in the marine ecosystem. Their numbers have been declining though, and getting snared in fishing nets is one of the main causes of their early demise. Each year, female turtles will return to the very spot where they were born, according to National Geographic. With only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings surviving the journey to adulthood, it becomes vitally important for them to build that nest.

So what happens when one particular turtle returns to her nesting beach only to discover that the beach is no longer there? And what does she do when she finds an airport tarmac instead?

One green sea turtle in the Maldives found herself in just such a predicament on April 9, as reported in The Edition.

The pregnant turtle made her way back to her birthplace only to find the beach no longer there—instead of soft, white sand, in its place was newly laid asphalt.

The newly built airstrip on Maafaru Island in the Maldives is part of the US$60 million Maafaru International Airport in the Noonu atoll—something the turtle was not anticipating.

But still, it was warm, and unable to dig into the hard surface, she did what any self-respecting pregnant turtle would do, and deposited her eggs right there.

Posted by Maafaru Airport on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Locals were quick to help out and returned her to the ocean.

According to David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, most turtle species are drawn to the same area where they were born, and where they nestled in the past.

Posted by Maafaru Airport on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

“That turtle was very likely born and hatched on that stretch of beach … They don’t just drop their eggs. For the turtle to be dropping her eggs tells me it’s not the first time she came to this shore,” Godfrey told The Dodo.

One council official said: “Despite the construction of the runway, the frequency with which turtles visit the island for nesting purposes has not decreased.”

The airport was officially opened on Aug. 29, 2018, and with a runway that is 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) long, it can accommodate the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

Posted by Maafaru Airport on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

With five of the seven species of turtles in the world found in the Maldives, green turtles are one of the most frequent visitors.

The green turtle is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and many experts have urged for as much of a sustainable development model as possible.

Sea turtles can travel great distances to return back to their nesting beach—they can make the hazardous journey every two to four years, and lay around 60 to 200 eggs each time, according to Conserve Turtles. When the hatchlings arrive into the world, they have to scramble across the sand to avoid waiting predators. If they manage to succeed, their lifespan can be long, more than 100 years.