Hérault / Laying of the loggerhead in Valras-Plage: how many tortillons will come out of the eggs?

The loggerhead turtle that laid eggs in Valras-Plage in mid-July. (©Facebook)

A turtle Marine Loggerhead Caretta carettaa regular guest on the French Mediterranean coasts, laid eggs on the Valras beachsouth of Béziers, on the night of July 16 to 17, as Metropolitan mentioned it. The Loggerhead turtle is a protected species at national, European and international level. The laying of sea turtles and their emergence are exceptional events. How many will there be twists – turtle babies- after this long incubation period? Mystery.

All the partners are mobilized around this event: the town hall of Valras-Plage, the Hérault prefecture, the departmental directorate for territory and the sea (DDTM) of Hérault, the regional directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing (Dreal) Occitanie, in charge of the protection and conservation of the species , the French Office for Biodiversity, by assisting surveillance and monitoring resources, the Center for the Study and Protection of Mediterranean Sea Turtles – CESTMed which collects and cares for sea turtles at the specialized center of La Grande Motte (where the other local Grau-du-Roi will soon move), the Herpetological Society of France (SHF) which coordinates the monitoring of sea turtles, the Orpellières association based in Sérignan which monitors coastal natural areas.

Volunteers take turns around the vast security perimeter
Volunteers take turns around the vast security perimeter (©CESTMed)

Video surveillance

The presence of this sea turtle was spotted on this night of July 16 to 17 by the agents of the seaside resort of Valras-Plage on call and particularly vigilant, thanks to the device of CCTV cameras. They immediately alerted the mayor. The municipal police and the firefighters Sdis 34 from the Valras-Plage barracks quickly went to the site and established a first security perimeter.

“That very morning, the CESTMed arrived accompanied by the Orpellières association. The security perimeter was then reinforced by the technical services of the municipality. Thanks to a call for volunteers Launched by the municipality, by the Orpellières Association and CESTMed volunteers, surveillance has been in place night and day since the evening of egg laying. The cleaning of the beach around this perimeter is carried out manually. A municipal decree has established a protective perimeter in order to prevent the curious from approaching, as well as a wider perimeter prohibiting all vehicles around the place of laying, the vibrations being able to harm the survival of the eggs, “says this Tuesday the prefecture which takes stock of this extremely rare event.

The prefecture recalls that, “the incubation period for eggs is on average around fifty days. It varies strongly according to the temperature and the humidity inside the nest, which depend on the exposure to the sun and the granulometry of the sand. Based on previous observations in mainland France, the hatching period is estimated between the end of August and mid-September”.

Hatch Thursday, August 25

This was confirmed to Métropolitain on Tuesday by Théo Guillaume, one of the three CESTMed employees and in charge of the Valras-Plage procedure: “ The fortieth day which will mark the end of the incubation period will fall exactly on Thursday, August 25, on that day, the referents specialized in the emergence phase will reinforce the surveillance around the eggs left on the sand by the turtle, which immediately went back to sea. Hatching will then take place between August 25 and mid-September, since hatching can take place up to the sixtieth day after laying”.

Asked about the number of eggs, he does not want to give a figure and does not confirm the hundred delivered by a witness who was on the site the night of the laying and who claims to have made a count: “We will be fixed during hatching and then we will know exactly how many twists there will be heading for the sea”.

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A municipal decree

For the sake of nesting, it is important to preserve the peacefulness of the area, insists Théo Guillaume, the CESTMed referent for Valras-Plage, permanently mobilized since July 17. He warns that, “this species is protected by law with reference to article L415-3 of the environmental code, anyone harming this nesting would then risk a fine of €15,000 and one year in prison with reference to L411. -1, because it is an offence”.

A municipal decree also governs the sector and more specifically the prohibition of crossing the prohibited zone, of dogs even on a leash, of setting up fires on the entire beach, of vehicle traffic in the immediate vicinity of the perimeter, the installation of a camp on the whole beach.

In August 2018, a Caouanne laid 56 eggs in Corsica
In August 2018, a Caouanne laid 56 eggs in Corsica (©CARI)

About a hundred volunteers

“Our call for volunteers to guard the area had a very good response, about a hundred people associations from Orpellières, Valras Plage, Biterrois, Héraultais, people from afar, but also holidaymakers have responded and are on watch, from 2 to 4 people, from 11 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Lifeguards from the lifeguard station adjoining the egg-laying site also take part in the surveillance operation, a site which is under video surveillance 24 hours a day with operators from the City of Valras-Plage, in direct contact with the municipal police and the Hérault gendarmerie. The swimmers who come with their families, whether they are from here or tourists, parade around the protective barriers driven into the sand, curious at first, then admiring the explanations provided by the volunteers present. A great educational lesson for children.

The Hérault prefecture informs that, “anyone can contribute to the knowledge of this species by reporting their observations of individuals at sea or on the beaches, including traces on the sand”. We remember that at the beginning of October 2018, a magnificent spectacle had caught the attention of many walkers on a beach in Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone where baby turtles were born in a patch of sand and were guided out to sea.

Théo Guillaume indicates that two nesting of Loggerhead Caretta caretta turtles, as at Valras-Plage, took place in the summer of 2020 on Var beaches near Fréjus and Saint-Aygulf and in August 2018 on a beach in the eastern plain of Corsica, according to the Cetacean Insular Research Association, CARI, which had even released a photo: “we were able to witness the birth of 23 small turtles of the Caretta Caretta species. Inside the nest, 56 whole eggs are expected to hatch and return to the sea in the next few days,”

This CESTMed referent is eager to know how many twists will come out of the eggs between August 25th and September 15th, at Valras Plage, where the event constitutes an unexpected, but formidable summer attraction.

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Hérault / Laying of the loggerhead in Valras-Plage: how many tortillons will come out of the eggs?

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