Life isn't easy for baby sea turtles. Even if they're lucky enough to hatch before egg-hunting humans or other predators find them, they still must endure a mad dash to the ocean past threats like crabs, birds, raccoons and fish — assuming light pollution doesn't fool them into running the wrong way.
Even under natural conditions, experts say most sea turtles hatchlings won't make it to adulthood. But an array of man-made threats are now making their lives even harder, from inedible plastic debris that resembles their prey to beach development and sea-level rise that limits their nesting options.
Thankfully, though, there are also humans trying to help as many sea turtles survive as possible. The video above, filmed by tourist Leon Duplay on Malaysia's Lankayan Island, shows how some of their work is paying off. Tourists gather as 150 hatchlings are released onto a beach, where they waste no time scrambling seaward. Duplay even gets shots of a few turtles swimming for the first time.
According to Lankayan Island Dive Resort, a local eco-tourism retreat, the tiny coral island is an important nesting site for endangered green sea turtles and critically endangered hawksbills. While both species range around the world, they're also thinly distributed, slow to reproduce and increasingly at risk from threats like plastic pollution, poaching, ship strikes and bycatch in fishing gear.
Yet conservation efforts are making headway in many parts of the world. Green and loggerhead sea turtles nested in record numbers along the U.S. Southeastern coast in 2013, for example, which federal officials attributed to decades of beach restoration and preservation. A boom in similar protections has begun to sweep the planet recently, from a new critical habitat for Atlantic loggerheads to sprawling new nature preserves around key Pacific ecosystems like Hawaii and New Caledonia.
And since sea turtles often return to nest at their own birthplaces, preserving natural beaches — even "a small strip of sand," as Duplay calls Lankayan — is a simple way to make their lives a little easier.