Turtle releasing at Eco Paraiso, July 2009

The Carey Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) arrives to the beaches of Yucatan from April to June to nestle during the night. This turtle is fast and agile in the water, but slow, clumsy and unfortunately endangered in land, because its shell is sold in the black market as earrings and rings. Its eggs are also sold illegally because it is wrongfully thought that they cure asthma, having also high cholesterol levels.

Since 1980 “Pronatura” civil organization verifies that the Sea Turtles can nest their eggs in the Mexican shores. The members of this organization collect the eggs where they can be vulnerable and relocate them in areas where they are safe (in places with less predators, away from luminous spots, tides and humans).

At the beach of Eco Paraiso Hotel in Celestun, Yucatan (www.ecoparaiso.com) “Pronatura” established a safe nesting zone, at the top of the first dune. This is the perfect place for nesting because the sand is harder, which allows the turtle to dig easily.

The turtle nest has a shape of a clay pitcher of 23 to 30 inches deep, and a base diameter of about 30 inches. The turtle caves the sand with its back legs for about 2 hours (you can hear the turtle breathing while caving, similar to a human breathing through a snorkel). When the turtle finishes to cave, it places from 100 to 200 eggs, depending on its size and if it nested the previous year. The turtle always nests in the same beach, but sometimes the nesting zone is far away, so instead of coming back the next year, they nest every two years.

The eggs are hatched around 60 days under temperatures from 82 to 86 Fahrenheit. This is critical because it defines the baby turtle sex: if the temperature is below 82 F the babies will be male, but if it is above 86 F the babies will be female (that is why Global Warming could make it very hard for turtles and other reptiles to survive).

Sunsets, just after dawn are the perfect time for baby turtles releasing, because during this time the diurnal animals are at their resting areas: pelicans, seagulls, herons, lizards and iguanas are sleeping and the diurnal fishes are resting. Also, the nocturnal animals are just waking up. The first 110 yards journey at the beach and sea is crucial for the baby turtles survival, because it is when most predatory activity occurs.

Sea turtles have between 0.07% and 1% chances for survival. Although their probability chances with the “Pronatura” liberation program are still uncertain, the suppression of the diurnal predators activity helps them a lot. The surviving turtles can live up to 120 years, and they reach their reproductive maturity between 20 and 30 years old.

How can you help the turtles to survive:
– Don’t buy their meat
– Don’t buy jewelry made with turtle bones or shelves
– Don’t consume their eggs
– Don’t take the shells or the sand from the beach; it can cause erosions making the soil impossible for the
turtles to nest.
– If you watch the turtles nesting don’t use lamps or flashes and keep your distance by at least 7 yards.
– Avoid bonfires during the nesting season.
– Pick up sunloungers, chairs and other objects on the way of turtles.
– Pick up plastic bags and other garbage near the nesting places.

Eco Paraiso Hotel
Celestun, Yucatan Mexico
Eco Paraiso