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August 12th, 2010 7:10 PM

Protecting Mexico’s Sea Turtles

Written by: Mexico Insight

Published: Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sea Turtles are found in all of the world’s oceans, with exception of the arctic.  There are seven species of Sea Turtle, and six of these arrive to lay eggs each year on beaches across Mexico.

Although Sea Turtles live most of their lives at sea, the females must return to land to lay their eggs.  One of the wonderful (and mysterious) aspects of these beautiful creatures is that the females return to the precise location where they themselves were born to lay their own eggs.  It is thought that they are sensitive to, and use, the Earth’s magnetic field as a means of navigation.

A sea turtle’s nest may contain up to 200 eggs.  The female will bury her “clutch” of eggs in the sand, where they will incubate for around fifty days before the eggs hatch, and the baby turtles make the often perilous journey from the beach to the ocean.  In addition to natural predators, to whom the baby turtles are easy prey as they scurry slowly along the beach from their birth nest to the water, Sea Turtles are also endangered by Man: people who would steal the eggs and baby turtles for profit as both fetch high prices on the black market.  We implore everybody visiting Mexico to desist from purchasing turtle eggs, turtle meat and any other products deriving from sea turtles.

Mexico runs a number of key conservation projects, whereby marine biologists and government agencies work in unison to protect Sea Turtles – an endangered species world-wide – from natural predators and unscrupulous humans.  One of the country’s principal conservation projects is situated at Estrella del Mar (EDM), a golf resort and luxury realty development situated some twenty miles south of Mazatlan, on a secluded beach where Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles arrive to lay eggs every year.

Between July and December, the females arrive to lay their eggs.  As they are laid, the preservation team based at the EDM Turtle Reserve monitors the beach and carefully collects eggs from sand nests to place them into a special incubator unit situated at the reserve.  Last year, the work led by Erendira Gonzalez Diego, a marine biologist working full-time at the reserve, collected 1,326 nests containing 125,263 eggs of which 83,866 hatched and were successfully returned to the sea; a survival rate of 68%.

In this area near Mazatlan, humans were previously the turtles’ number one predator; now, thanks directly to the preservation work being undertaken at Estrella del Mar, only one nest was looted by humans in 2008.   Every year, the government supports the effort by dispatching state and federal police forces to guard several beaches where female turtles are known to arrive and lay eggs – including the beach at EDM – and thus assist with the ongoing efforts to protect the sea turtles.

We’ve uploaded Erendira’s full report (PDF, 1MB) that includes detailed information about the EDM Turtle Reserve, how the egg collection, incubation and release work is undertaken, detailed statistics, and some wonderful photographs.  Please download a copy and learn more about this excellent preservation work.

The females will return to Mexico to lay their eggs this summer, beginning in July.  Endira and her team of volunteers will be there, monitoring and working across seventeen kilometers (eleven miles) of beach area, awaiting the turtle arrivals and to extend last year’s valuable preservation work throughout the upcoming 2009 season.


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Posted by Craig Harrison on August 12th, 2010 7:10 PMPost a Comment

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