Endangered: A diamondback terrapin hatchling emerges from its shell. *Photo supplied
Endangered: A diamondback terrapin hatchling emerges from its shell. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, NOV. 16: “We could lose this endangered species for good if we don’t step in to help them out.”

That is the candid view of researcher Mark Outerbridge after he completed  a groundbreaking study into the hatching success of wild diamondback terrapins in Bermuda.

Mr Outerbridge spent months monitoring clutches of diamondback eggs in the sand bunkers of the Mid Ocean Golf Course and comparing their hatching success with eggs he collected and put into an incubator.

The findings paint a worrying picture for the species, which is believed to number just over 100 on the island. And Mr Outerbridge believes it is now time for humans to give the diamondback terrapins a helping hand to ensure their future survival.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “This is the first time that anyone has really looked in any detail at the hatching success of diamondback terrapins in the wild and the results are quite startling.

“In June I marked out 10 nests of 58 eggs in the bunkers of the Mid-Ocean Golf Course where the terrapins nest and recorded the hatching success of these clutches later in the year. I also collected 74 eggs from the course and placed them in an incubator back in the Aquarium and compared the success rate.

“Of the ones in the wild just two developed into hatchlings, which is a 3.4-per-cent success rate.

“While 33 of the eggs in the incubator hatched out, which is a 44-per-cent success rate.”

The incubator was set to optimum heat and humidity levels to ensure all the baby terrapins were male.And of the 33 incubator hatchlings all but four survived and were later released into Mangrove Lake on the golf course.

Mr Outerbridge added: “The figure for the wild or control sample was particularly bad compared to what I had seen before and that could be because I only monitored 10 nests.

“But that is one of the reasons why I did this project; to try and get to the bottom of this low-hatching success in the wild.

“Fortunately, in Bermuda diamondbacks do not have predators like raccoons so it is still a bit of a mystery why they struggle so much in the wild.

“This is an area I would like to look at more in the future. But the most critical aspect of this project is that it has shown how fragile the diamondback population is.

“The more I have worked with these terrapins the more I believe that we can not afford to just stand back.

“We need to help them or we will lose them.”