Their pledge not to eat turtle eggs broke the backs of the ongoing nest harvesting. Two-thirds of the town’s people had been collecting nests for their families. But since no one in their families was interested in eating the eggs the fathers quit. This left about a dozen hardcore poachers on the beach. These poachers consisted of thieves, alcoholics, drug users, and mostly young men that had no family in town. We whittled this mob down to a few. Today only 4% of the nests are destroyed by poachers.
About two months into the classes I realized that we had a serious problem. The members and mothers that were teaching the classes had little knowledge of the eco-preservation, and ecology in general.. Except for learning not to eat turtle eggs they were learning little else. In looking for help I turned to the universities. I contacted Erik Saracho, a Mexican professor of environmental science who agreed to teach the classes for a small fee. Our environment classes went from a day-care-level to college level education overnight. Erik later moved into San Pancho and helped Virgilio with his Jaguar preservation program.
At the beginning of the second season the three local restaurants placed an article in a large newspaper accusing us of poaching with the blessing of the government. The members of the group were outraged and asked the editor of the paper to come to San Pancho for lunch and see for himself that it was the restaurants doing the poaching. The next day, after lunch, the editor placed a full front page retraction on the front pageof his newspaper denouncing the three restaurants as liars and being the true poachers.
Also by the end of the second season the poachers began to push back. They sent out word that if we went out on the beach again they would slash our tires and gouge out our eyes out with a knife. At once the members stopped going to the beach and told me to do the same. This is serious they said. No way was I going to let the poachers intimidate me. I had several kids guard my pickup and went out on the beach with only a pair of shorts, few plastic bags, a flashlight and a probing rod. For some reason I did not see a single poacher for over a month. It was puzzling, why? Later a member came up with the answer. It was said that I was carrying a gun and if anyone approached me in the dark on the beach, I would have blown them away, which of course was simply not true.
In 1994 I asked the Costa Azul Hotel if they would allow me to give the hotel guests a weekly slide show presentation. I was told by the manager that because I was not a marine biologist I was not qualified. Two years later when the Coastal Conservation Foundation from the USA arrived in San Pancho as volunteers and asked the manager the same question, they were given permission on the spot. After three and a half year's work with the marine turtles I was not qualified, but members of the CCF were given permission even though they had never seen a live marine turtle!!!
After CCF left San Pancho at the end of that season I was finally allowed to give the presentation, but after I complained that the hotel was dumping raw sewage on the beach and on the hillsides, I was kicked out of the hotel after several years of presentations. I was notified that I was not welcome within the hotel grounds again. In April 2001 our slideshow presentation had moved to Gallo’s Pizza Restaurant. Eventually the presentations at Gallo’s took on a festive atmosphere. We received free drinks and dinners.
In May 1994 the group had accomplished many environmental projects and in April it was time to elect new officers and board members. The election was carried out and I was elected president….. not what I wanted. The former president resigned the next day, but Judith remained with the Group for many years after.
After the election we were told that the results had to be recorded by a notary public, and he needed to send the documents on to the State and Municipal Governments to be signed. At first it sounded like an easy job. The notary public asked us for all the documents of our past meetings, the minutes of the meetings, signatures of the members in attendance, the quorum, etc., etc. Say what? Nemorio had not kept a single record of any meetings because he couldn’t read or write at all……
With an understanding chuckle the notary public said that we were not a legal Mexican Nonprofit Association. I asked the notary public what we could do to correct this mistake, and his reply was simple. Go back and conduct a meeting, record the minutes of the meeting, especially the election, and have all the members present sign the minutes. State that there was a quorum present, read the minutes of the last meeting, and return this information to him. Within two months the problem was corrected and I became the first president of the Group.
In 1994 we started the community’s first recycling project run by the kids of the environment classes. Although we encountered one serious problem when we tried find someone to purchase the materials.
In 1994 we opened a new marine nursery on the Nuevo Vallarta beach and put Coastal Conservation Foundation to work there. Nacho Piño was the director of the La Cruz de Huanacaxtle Marine Research Lab and was also responsible for our new nursery, which the members felt was a good plan.
When they finished explaining their plans, I gave them the bad news, the former President was no longer a member of the group, he had resigned, and I had been elected the new president. They were shocked. I told them that if they wanted to work with us they would be our volunteers, follow our instructions, keep our records, and work alongside our members and other volunteers. Their answer was no! Later that night Dan, one of the CCF members, came to my house. They were sorry for the abrupt no, and they would like to join us that coming summer.