Sea Turtle Release in Mexico
Punta de Mita
Four Seasons Resort
I have to admit, participating in a sea turtle release program was never on my bucket list. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar. But when we checked-in at the Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico and I saw they had teamed up with a local sea turtle conservation program, I had to know more. After all, I'm all about travel and education! When I found out that we could participate, I was all in!
Red Tortuguera is a not-for-profit organization operating in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit along the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. Their efforts began in 2011 when a group of turtle biologists joined together to do something about the continued threat to these aquatic reptiles. But sea turtle conservation began in this area over 20 years ago and they’ve been working hard to educate, conserve and protect. The greatest threats to these turtles are poachers who harvest their eggs and meat, marine pollution including oil spills and debris, and fishing nets. Programs such as Red Tortuguera are making a difference by patrolling the beaches for poachers, providing safe “hatcheries” for the eggs to hatch in, educating the public, and rallying support by allowing tourists to participate in release programs. Their efforts have made a huge difference as the Pacific species of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles are no longer on the endangered list.
Our class began with a 45 minute lecture. Okay, let’s be honest. Lecture sounds stuffy and boring. Far from it! Our marine biologist began with placing a tub of freshly hatched turtles in front of us. They had just hatched that morning! There were squeals of delight as we watched 40 or so little guys scrambling over each other and moving wildly about. Actually they were all females. How do we know that? It turns out that sex is determined by the temperature of the sand when the eggs are laid.
Our biologist told us the most amazing facts about these Olive Ridley Sea Turtles!
• A nest of eggs is called a clutch.
• A clutch can contain up to 100 eggs.
• The eggs will incubate in the nest for 45 days.
• They are born with a little attached food sack that will last them for their first 3 days.
• They are omnivores, with their favorite treat being jellyfish.
• They travel thousands of miles each year.
• They will return to the same location in 15 years to lay a nest of their own.
• They can live to be 50 years old.
He also told us about their predators and what we can do to help. Humans may be their greatest threat. Poachers in Mexico sell the eggs they steal in the night or catch them in nets and sell them for their meat. Sea turtles are protected by the law, both local and international, but some ignore these rules. Other ways people are harming these creatures are through careless acts like pollution. Sea turtles sometimes confuse plastic bags for jellyfish. They also have natural predators at a time when they are the most vulnerable. At that critical moment when they hatch and then try to make their way back to the ocean, birds, raccoons, iguanas, and crabs sometimes stop them from making it.
But not on this night and not with these 40 little ladies! It was up to us and they were going to make it! After our class had ended, we all made our way down to the beach as the sun was setting. We all rubbed our hands in the sand to remove any smells like sunscreen or insect repellant that would confuse their ability to smell the ocean and know which way to go. We were also told to turn off the flash on our cameras as the lights could confuse them and make them turn away from the setting sun. Our biologist drew a long line in the sand about six feet from the water’s edge.
We were shown how to carefully hold the sea turtles, balancing them between our thumb and index finger. Then it was time! We were encouraged to name our little turtles and set them free. I wished Gertrude luck as she struggled across valleys and mountains of sand that lay before her. Clearly she was determined to head in the direction in which she was destined to go. She made it alright, along with all her sisters. We sat there until the last little turtle was caught up in the wave and carried out into the wide blue ocean.
As you can clearly see, I loved, loved, loved this activity. It had many things that I treasure: a memorable family experience, admiration for God’s creation, education and travel.
If your family ever has the opportunity to participate in a program like this, I highly recommend it. It turns out, there are similar programs around the world. Below are some links to Sea Turtle Conservation Programs available in various locations.
PIN FOR LATER:
Sea Turtle Conservation Programs - Worldwide
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Padre Island - NPS
Sea Turtle Camp
Discover Corps - Volunteer Travel
Check with your hotel in the Puerto Vallarta or Punta de Mita area
Archelon - Turtle Protection Society of Greece
Kuta Beach & Sea Turtles
Sea Turtle Origami
Sea Turtle Coloring Sheet
My favorite Sea Turtle books for kids: