I will never forget the first time I released a baby sea turtle. It was magical.
It was back in October 2004, and we had just moved into our newly remodeled home in Rincón de Guayabitos a few weeks earlier. We had finished dinner and as we were about to leave the restaurant, the owner whom we had known for many years, showed us a styrofoam cooler filled with a dozen or so baby sea turtles. I was mesmerized. He asked us if we wanted to release a few of them on the beach in front of the restaurant. On our way to the beach, I was so excited and utterly surprised by the sheer strength I felt in my hands as I gently held onto these two tiny beings. That experience left a lasting impression on me.
Shortly thereafter, my husband David and I started volunteering with the local turtle camps. Turtle Camps throughout Mexico play a key roll in the survival of endangered sea turtles. Locally, volunteers from Los Grupos Ecologistas de Nayarit A.C. comb the expansive length of beaches at night to look for nests, eggs and mature female turtles. The eggs are collected and taken back to protected hatcheries. On occasion, Vicente Peña or Catherine E. Hart, who oversee the turtle camps in our area, stop by our house with coolers filled with newly collected turtle eggs. We volunteer to bury them in the sand in our protected beach area and watch over them while they incubate.
Near the end of their 45-day incubation period, we start to check for hatchlings first thing each morning. As they hatch, we collect them to keep them out of the hot sun and away from predators like iguanas, crabs, birds, opossums and dogs. We devised the mesh covers (shown in the left photo) to try to keep them contained as they hatch. We place the new hatchlings in styrofoam coolers to keep them safe, cool and hydrated Mobdro until they are released.
We then invite our friends and neighbors to participate in their release, or liberation as it is called, which takes place at dusk the evening they hatch. Los Grupos Ecologistas de Nayarit, A.C. and Hotel Peñamar in Rincón de Guayabitos organize several turtle liberations throughout the season.
Being able to hold a baby turtle in your hands, seal it with a kiss, and wish them farewell is an experience of a lifetime.
Olive Ridley turtles, known as Golfinas here in Mexico, typically hatch between August and mid-January. If you or your family are interested in participating, watch for release dates on Jaltemba Bay Folk, our community forum. To learn more, you can also visit the Los Grupos Ecologistas de Nayarit, A.C. community webpage.