Turtle release on Isla Mujeres posted by on October 3, 2010

5000 baby turtles were safely released into the sea on the shores of Isla Mujeres, Mx.


Facts about sea turtles

  • Turtles evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. These ancient reptiles have lived on earth since the time of the dinosaurs.
  • Female turtles typically lay up to six ‘clutches’ of over 100 eggs.
  • The temperature of the sand around a nest determines whether baby turtles, known as ‘hatchlings’, will be male or female. Colder temperatures produce males, whereas warmer temperatures produce females.
  • Hatchling turtles always return to the beaches where they were born to nest.
  • Baby turtles hatch from their nests at night and race to the sea by moonlight. Lights near the beach should be turned off during the summer so turtles do not go in the wrong direction.
  • It may take decades for green and loggerhead turtles to mature in the wild.
  • In some parts of the world, loggerhead and green turtles are hunted for meat, and their eggs are taken from nesting beaches. Today, both species are considered endangered.
  • Sea turtles may be able to live for up to 100 years.
  • Turtles drink saltwater and get rid of extra salt through special glands in their eyes.
  • Loggerhead and green turtles are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world.

The official sea turtle season begins in May when hundreds of mature, female sea turtles crawl from the coastal waters of the Caribbean Sea onto the beaches of Cancun & Isla Mujeres to deposit between 50 and 200 eggs. The number of eggs laid depends on the turtle species, whether they are hawksbill, loggerhead, or green sea turtles which are prevalent in this region.

Incubation of the eggs takes approximately two months. When they’re ready to hatch, the baby sea turtles tear their shells apart with their snout but wait until all the eggs are hatched before pushing through the sand to reach the ocean. Only an average of 0.01 % of the hatchlings from each nest succeeds in making it to the sea due to common predators, such as seagulls and human poachers.

Once the eggs hatch, volunteers guide the baby turtles toward the sea to ensure that all of them make it safely into the ocean.

The female sea turtle is methodical about laying her eggs. First, she seeks a remote spot on the beach for digging a large, open crater to protect the nest from predators. When she finds the ideal spot, she digs a 16-to-20-inch deep circular hole in the sand where she deposits her soft-shelled eggs. After laying her eggs, she refills the nest with sand, covering the surface to make it undetectable. Then she returns to sea. This entire process takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

Every year thousands of sea turtles come to the shores of Mexico to lay their eggs on the beach before returning to the sea.  Six species of turtles make the Mexican Caribbean their destination of choice, including the endangered Green Sea Turtles and Loggerheads.  The nesting season begins in May and lasts through October, with the eggs hatching 50-60 days after being deposited in the sand.  Not that long ago the turtles were hunted for their shells and meat, but thankfully the Mexican government placed them on the protected species list, implementing laws that make the theft of eggs and the killing of turtles punishable by jail time.  Unfortunately, year after year erosion and contamination have spoiled some of their pristine nesting grounds, prompting animal organizations in the region to lend a helping hand to ensure the continued cycle of life of these peaceful creatures.

Turtle at the Tortungranja Isla Mujeres

The Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) on Isla Mujeres is one of the organizations devoted to the conservation of the sea turtle.  This scientific research center is funded almost exclusively by private donations, relying on the generosity of individuals and businesses to continue their work.Through the combined contributions of many on Isla Mujeres and in the state of Quintana Roo, everyone  hopes to give the turtles a full, free life in the sea.

Typical way of marking turtle nests

The Tortungranja of Isla Mujeres is open to the public, please stop by and visit!  A portion of the 30 peso entrance fee goes directly to conservation efforts and allows the facility to continue its great work with the turtles.  You’ll see a variety of turtle species in different life stages, and enjoy the small aquarium with a collection of local sea life (the sea horses are a delight!)  The Tortugranja is located on the west coast of the island.  If you come at the right time, you just might be lucky enough to see newborns or participate in a turtle release program!

Turtles' nests in the Riviera Maya

If you are visiting the Mexican Caribbean during the months of May to November, be aware that it is nesting and hatching season.  Watch your step on the beach, while many nests are clearly marked by protection agencies, sometimes you’ll stumble on a nest that has yet to be noted, do not step on the nest, do not move the sand and definitely do not touch the eggs!  If you find an unmarked nest, be sure to notify hotel staff, they will make arrangements for its protection.  If you are on the beach at night and are fortunate enough to see a mother turtle coming ashore, please leave her in peace, do not make loud noises nor shine flashlights and avoid taking pictures with a flash camera.  The lights will scare the mother back to sea (this is why some hotels in the Riviera Maya shut off many of their outdoor lights during nesting season).   Just sit back and observe a miracle of nature, the memories will last forever.  Report the event to your hotel or security staff to ensure that the nest is protected as soon as possible.  Through education, awareness and the continued efforts of humans who care, the sea turtles will be around for millennial to come.

Here are a few pictures taken by friends Brad and Tiffany who live on Isla Mujeres. The first is a container full of just hatched turtles and used to transport them to the shoreline for release.

Children are encouraged to participate in the release close to the shore in order to prevent flying predators from intercepting the babies as they make a run to the safety of the sea

Getting a few more

Tiffany and her daughter helping out

The happiness in this innocent child’s face is a joy to behold………..

Here take a look at these two!

It was a successful release of approximately 5000 turtles into the sea…………all is good.

If they survive this one is an example of an adult

Hola!

Many of the hotels and businesses in Cancun and Isla have programs established to save and help the turtles survive.


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