Nearly a 100 hawksbill turtles, which are critically endangered, hatched on a deserted beach in Brazil, as the usual crowds didn’t show due to restrictions on public gatherings on the region’s sands.

97 tartarugas-de-pente, as they are known in Brazil, were born last Sunday in Paulista, a town in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco. Government workers, the only people who witnessed the event, took photographs showing the tiny creatures making their way down the beach into the Atlantic waves.

The state governor, Paulo Câmara, has ordered a partial shutdown and urged residents to stay indoors to slow the spread of coronavirus. Locals are also forbidden from gathering on Pernambuco’s spectacular shoreline since last weekend. 

According to Brazil’s Tamar conservation project, which is responsible for protecting sea turtles, hawksbills lay their eggs along the country’s north-eastern coast and are considered a critically endangered species. 

Hawksbill turtles can grow up to 110cm in length and weigh 85kg. Their Portuguese name translates to “comb turtles”, due to the fact that their shells were once widely used to make combs and frames for glasses. According to the WWF, the turtle’s English name comes from its narrow, pointed beak.

Roberto Couto, Paulista’s environmental secretary, said the town was home to four of the five types of turtles found along Brazil’s coastline: the hawksbill, the green sea turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the loggerhead turtle. More than 300 turtles have hatched there this year alone.

Câmara said he hoped the coronavirus restrictions could eventually be relaxed in Pernambuco, which is home to around nine million of Brazil’s 209 million citizens. But for now, they are essential. “Brazil isn’t ready for an exponential growth [in cases], so we need to buy time … so we can put together the infrastructure to treat as many infected people as possible,” he stated.