PLAYA LOS COCO SEA TURTLE PRESERVATION.
The Mexican Governments have made inroads to protect and preserve the four main species of sea turtles from predators through education and hands-on experiences. The growing human population, coupled with the changing demographics of the coastal region in the past one hundred years, has dramatically altered the habitat, and thus, the reproductive cycle of the turtles. By 1988, pressures from coastal development, poaching, shrimp fishing, natural predators, and tourism reduced a population of tens of thousands to less than 200 nesting turtles per year.
The University of Guadalajara, Villa Star of trhe Sea, and Footprints by the Sea, have joined forces to build Turtle Eggs Presrves to collect and provide Sea Turtle eggs safe sanctuary where they may lay undisturbed, free from predators until hatched. They are then allowed to make their way back to the ocean, where they continue the cycle of life.
Near these two properties, sanctuaries have been built to provide habitat for the eggs. Beach patrols are done daily through the winter months to collect and preserve the eggs until they are ready to hatch.
Baby Sea Turtles
Watching a baby turtle (known as a “hatchling”) struggle out of the nest and make its way to the water is an emotional experience. Everything from footprints to driftwood, vehicle tracks, and crabs are obstacles, though this gauntlet is important for its survival. Birds, raccoons, and fish are just a few of the predators these vulnerable creatures face; some experts say only one out of a thousand will survive to adulthood under natural conditions. After an adult female sea turtle nests, she returns to the sea, leaving her nest and the eggs within it to develop on their own. The amount of time the egg takes to hatch varies among the different species and is influenced by environmental conditions such as the temperature of the sand. The hatchlings do not have sex chromosomes so their gender is determined by the temperature within the nest.
BABY SEA TURTLE FACTS
It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Sea turtle hatchlings eat a variety of prey including things like molluscs and crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum sea weed, jellyfish, and fish eggs. Unfortunately, hatchlings also mistake garbage and objects like tar balls and plastic as food and ingest them. Leatherback and flatback hatchlings are significantly larger than other sea turtle species. Leatherbacks are pelagic (open water) even as hatchlings and their larger size helps maintain their temperature. Hatchlings use the natural light horizon, which is usually over the ocean, along with the white crests of the waves to reach the water when they emerge from the nest. Any other light sources such as beachfront lighting, street lights, light from cars, campfires etc. can lead hatchlings in the wrong direction, also known as disorientation. Once out of the nest, hatchlings face many predators including ghost crabs, birds, raccoons, dogs, and fish. Many scientists are concerned that rising global temperatures will result in warmer sand, causing more female than male baby turtles. Learn more information about the effects of global warming on sea turtles.
THE PIVOTAL TEMPERATURE OF A BABY TURTLE
Whether hatchlings are male or female depends on the temperature where they are in the nest, known as the “pivotal temperature.” The temperature varies slightly among species, ranging between roughly 83-85 degrees Fahrenheit (28-29 degrees Celsius), at which embryos within a nest develop into a mix of males and females. Temperatures above this range produce females and colder temperatures produce males.
After 45 to 70 days (depending on the species), the hatchlings begin to pip, or break out of their eggs, using a small temporary tooth located on their snout called a caruncle. Once out of their eggs, they will remain in the nest for a number of days. During this time they will absorb their yolk, which is attached by an umbilical to their abdomen. This yolk will provide them the much-needed energy for their first few days while they make their way from the nest to offshore waters.
The hatchlings begin their climb out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating nighttime, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Once the baby turtles emerge from the nest, they use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, and the natural light of the ocean horizon. If the hatchlings successfully make it down the beach and reach the surf, they begin what is called a “swimming frenzy” which may last for several days and varies in intensity and duration among species. The swimming frenzy gets the hatchlings away from dangerous nearshore waters where predation is high. Once hatchlings enter the water, their “lost years” begin and their whereabouts will be unknown for as long as a decade. When they have reached approximately the size of a dinner plate, the juvenile turtles will return to coastal areas where they will forage and continue to mature.
You can’t touch or hold the baby sea turtles because it affects their survival. They imprint on the sand where hatched. Oils from your skin can interfere with their imprinting process. If you grip them too hard you could break the white dot on their belly which holds three days worth of food.
Releasing Sea Turtles
1. Do Not Handle the Baby Turtles You can’t touch or hold the baby sea turtles because it affects their survival. They imprint on the sand where hatched. Oils from your skin can interfere with their imprinting process. If you grip them too hard you could break the white dot on their belly which holds three days worth of food.
Pro-tip: If a place lets you hold baby sea turtles in your bare hands, they aren’t committed to the preservation of the species.
2. 15 to 20 meters of Beach Crawling to the Ocean Release the sea turtles on the sand, not in the water. Crawling towards the ocean is part of the sea turtle imprinting process. It helps ensure their survival.
3. Sunrise or Sunset To safeguard the sea turtles, they’re released at sunrise or sunset. This helps protect them from predators.
Pro-tip: Tour operators that allow releases during the middle of the day are not in the best interests of the sea turtles.
4. No Flash or Bright Lights Bright lights and flashes from cameras and cell phones can disorient sea turtles. Hatchlings could get turned away from the ocean and use their limited energy resources.
Information coutesy of SEA WORLD
We invite anyone to come along and witness a turtle egg recovery. We go out onto the beach in the early hours of the morning covering five miles of beach in search of newly laid eggs and relocate them to our sanctuary. We go several times a week, all year round and we invite people to come and learn about Sea Turtles, and see the work, that Villa Star of the Sea, Playa Grande Resort, and Footprints by the Sea does to help the endangered Sea Turtles. We can accommodate up to two persons. Text us for more information.
If you would like to donate to help with sea turtle rescue, our PayPal account is: paypal.me/eHoeter
WILDLIFE PRESERVATION, Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico.
14 yrs ago, Luis Eugenio Rivera Cervantes started saving wildlife that were wounded, either through natural means in the wild, or hit by vehicles or shot, or any other animal in need, he would take in and nurse back to health and release if possible.
Many hundreds of animals have been released back into the wild but many others, because of their severe injuries, would never survive again in the wild. Luis has housed them and takes care of them on a round the clock basis. Everything from hawks, owls, gila monsters, boa constrictors, raccoons and all sorts of different animals, he has taken in and dedicated himself to their well-being even though it may be in captivity now.
We met Luis through a post he posted several months ago and finally we were able to go to Autlan, Mexico and meet this very special man and visit his animal sanctuary, and to see the selfless, exceptional work he does to keep these animals.
Between walking through the grass with 23 turtles wandering around to a hawk that sits in the garden, to owls that have had their wings amputated, due to the severity of their injuries, and snakes that have had their head bitten and are no longer able to fend for or feed themselves. The severe injuries these animals have suffered were life altering. These animals would be left at his doorstep in some cases, with injuries to severe to heal or be fixed by veterinarians.
Luis dedicates his time to all of these animals. A university professor, at the University of Guadalajara in entomology, he has learned, how to take care for all these different species to ensure they have a healthy life either in captivity now or before they are able to be set free. This man has dedicated his life and his home to this cause. Now, for 14 years with no help other than small donations from people. I think it’s amazing and we are trying to help him as much as we can. He currently is trying to build a larger Aviary for the owls he takes care of. One, a female is blind and another male, has a wing amputation and they have become a mated pair. A larger aviary is required to allow the female to construct a nest. One of the ways we can help is to send Luis donations so he can continue to care for and feed these animals, and take care of the new ones that come into his sanctuary.
Anything you can do or help is appreciated. It was a very wonderful experience to meet him and we are in awe of all he does for all these animals. He also welcomes a visit to see the animals. This very special man has deciated his life and his home to a very special cause. Thank you for reading this and thank you for helping if you can. Every little bit helps.
Eileen Hoeter and Jedd Derry
Donations are most welcome….. so he can continue the work he does as the sanctuary continues to grow with new animals require the kindness Luis provides. Luis also welcomes people to visit the sanctuary. He takes time for all and is dedicated to the wildlife education.
If you would like to donate to help with Luis’ Wildlife Rescue His PayPal account is:
The pictures below are from our visit with Luis.