Hello fellow beach lovers! My name is Penelope, and I'm a 65-year-old loggerhead sea turtle. Well, actually, I'm 95, but everyone says I look young for my age. I'm a mom of over 2500, and I've laid every one of my sweet babies right here in Destin on the beach, locals call it Henderson Beach State Park. All the mothers in my family have returned to this very same spot, year after year, for thousands, maybe millions of years. We love the soft white sand and the way the moonlight guides us along the calm shores to just the right place for our eggs.
In recent years the beach here has been cleaner. We really love it; we've laid more and more clutches of eggs here. People just like you are starting to notice, appreciate, and even love us. You understand us; we just want to live on this planet too. In the last few seasons, there have been less fake moons or lights on the beach, and we've even seen humans protecting our babies as they hatch in the early morning hours, protecting them from the hungrier of beach visitors that fly here on their own two wings. We turtles are smart creatures; there's a reason we like this particular place so much and why it is so important to the safety and survival of our sweet little turtle babies.
Even though we live as long or longer than most animals on our beautiful planet, the start of every turtle's life is the hardest. Our babies are born in clutches of eggs, buried under the sand, woken by the moon, and drawn back to the gulf to survive. Unlike you humans, we are unable to nurture our young. They are born in groups together but in many ways are very alone and most vulnerable when they are young. Because we turtle moms can't be there for them, we have to have more of them - safety in numbers as they say. Sadly most of our babies won't survive their first trip back to the water. Even once they are deep in the water, many are gobbled up by hungry groupers or tuna. Us turtles have a rough go of it at times. Young turtles in the gulf face threats everywhere, from flying predators on the surface to larger fish below. Being a sea turtle can be scary at times.
The lucky few of us that do make it out into the wide world find our way to the greater oceans where we gather in large groups to eat and swim and eat and make more little sweet babies. It's really exciting when we swim together. The currents of the oceans bring us to some of the most beautiful, and for that matter, jelly fish-full areas around. We love to eat jellyfish! When we swim together, we are protected, those small turtles lucky enough to join our group are almost assured a life full of love, seaweed, and seafood. If they are lucky enough to be in our little group, they can even visit Destin!
Thanks for thinking of us when you are on the beach. Every bit of trash and bright plastic you pick up off the beach is one less hazard to get stuck around our necks or in our bellies. The deep holes you fill before you leave for the night save our sweet babies from being trapped on the sand with nothing to eat. We thank you for your kindness and for thinking about us. On behalf of turtles everywhere, we wish you a safe and happy visit to this special little place called Destin!