Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The March of the....Turtles? (40 B4 40 - #6)

 Marc and I returned home last night from a lovely (kid free!) vacation in Manzanillo, Mexico.  (Can't say I'm sorry I missed all the "wonderful" weather they had here at home while we were gone!  Did we time that well or WHAT?) 

I've been lagging in checking "new experiences" off my 40 B4 40 list (I have a few unfinished blog posts for some new things I've done - I really need to get on that!) so I was hoping that I could at least check a few things off the list while on this vacation.   We had already been to this area of Mexico before (9 years ago) so the trip in itself wasn't a new experience...and I was really hoping some new adventures were waiting for me!  Little did I know, I was in for one of the best experiences of my life...

Posted on the turtle egg enclosure

We knew that the hotel where we were staying organizes and runs a "Sea Turtle Conservation" program on the beach.  There are 2 or 3 of the hotel employees that have taken it upon themselves to do their part to help re-establish the dwindling sea turtle population and we were hoping we'd be able to see some of their conservation efforts in action while we were there. 

Less than 1 in 1000 sea turtle eggs make it to adulthood.   Mama sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches, bury them in the sand and then disappear back to the sea, never returning to their nests.   The eggs themselves are vulnerable to predators and poaching (there is actually a black market for sea turtle eggs) and the baby turtles that DO hatch have a long list of predators waiting for them both on the beach and in the water.  

When we arrived we learned that these men from the hotel patrol the area's beaches every night (between midnight and 5am) looking for sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs.    They scoop up the eggs, transport them to a secure area of the beach to incubate in the sand (just as they would under natural conditions) and then when they hatch (after about 45 days), they clear the area of potential predators as best they can (the ones on land and in the air, anyway) and release the turtles at night to give them the best chance of survival after their march to the ocean.  This is where we come in.

Whenever they get a new batch of turtle hatchlings they gather the hotel guests on the beach, give each guest a turtle of their own to name and love for a few minutes, and then we release them en masse and watch their journey to freedom.  You have NO IDEA how much I was hoping some eggs would hatch while we were there....

Baby Tortugas!
Luckily, on our 3rd morning we learned they had around 195 new hatchlings ready to hit the water!   They place all the baby tortugas into a big tub with sand and water so they can hang out for the day and get ready for their release in the safety of the evening.   We spent ages around their enclosure watching them....I was in LOVE! 

That morning, I wrote some words of encouragement in the sand for my little buddies. 

Sparky and Sparky

Puddles and Puddles
We were told to be back around 6:30 for the big release.  The beach was packed.    I found it amusing that everyone was taking pictures of my sand art from earlier.  We named our little turtles "Sparky and Puddles" and spent a few minutes giving them some love and a little pep talk before letting them go.    

What an experience it was watching almost 200 turtles "race" for the water.   Probably one of the coolest things I have ever been part of.   Marc's turtle was a total rock star and was one of the first to hit the water and be on his way.  Puddles was a little slow but she eventually got it figured out.  I, of course, cried like an idiot once they made it.  You'd think I was their mother or something.  All of the turtles we released made it to the water - we did our part to make it as safe as possible, the rest is up to nature.   I'm choosing to believe that Sparky and Puddles are out there somewhere...swimming like mad and will live to the ripe old age of 100 :)

My only regret is that the kids weren't there to experience this with us.   I did my best to take pics and videos so they could watch the fun, but I know they would have really loved to be a part of it.  A good excuse to go back someday, I'd say!

New experience #6 - CHECK!    Gonna be hard to top this one.....

J :)

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