Turtle species rarely seen in Hawaii makes an appearance on Kailua beach

Updated: Oct. 9, 2019 at 6:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A turtle species rarely seen in the Hawaiian Islands made an appearance last month on Oahu’s Windward side.

Two visitors just happened to be sunbathing right next to the turtle nest at Kailua Beach Park.

Ben Zitney and Sarah Wagner were stunned last month when dozens of hatchlings emerged from right under a beach towel, where some other people were sitting nearby.

“There was maybe three or four of them at first and then he pulled back a towel that he had on the ground and there was just more than just a dozen, like dozens of them just crawling out," Zitney said.

"They just looked like little wind up toys ― just going towards the water.”

The two reached out to local experts to get more information on the turtles.

And eventually a NOAA scientist recognized them as olive ridley turtles, typically found in Central America.

So how did this nest go unnoticed at popular Kailua Beach?

“It’s a highly transited beach and that might be why the nest was never observed in the first place when it was initially laid because it gets a lot of foot traffic," said Alexander Gaos, a NOAA marine turtle research ecologist.

“Usually when you find a turtle nest, it’s because you see the tracks from the female that comes out at night. But if you get a lot of people walking in the morning that track might have been covered up.”

Gaos says this is only the seventh nest from this species found in the main Hawaiian Islands in the past 30 years. It contained 72 eggs in all.

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