On the 4th of July, the annual Turtle Independence Day will be celebrated at Hawaii’s Mauna Lani Resort, a tradition that began 28 years ago. The Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu, has been around the islands for centuries, possibly as long as 200 million years, and is revered. In Chinese mythology, the sea turtle represents wisdom, and in Hawaii, according to lore, it guided the first voyagers to the islands.
Decades of Hawaii’s relentless commercial development have disrupted turtles’ reproductive patterns, and ever-present human predators have put their future at risk. In 1978, the green sea turtle was added to the endangered species list. But the resort’s partnership with Oahu’s Sea Life Park allows it to raise three-to-five-month-old turtles in ponds on their property until they’re old enough and healthy enough to be released into the sea – their independence day. More than 200 turtles have been tagged and tracked since the program began.
Hundreds of visitors watch the event at the resort’s Loko I’a, the turtle fish pond, which the resort manager said helps people see Hawaii’s culture, and raises awareness about the honu, as well as the environment in general.
Watch last year’s Turtle Independence Day here.