Hola Volunteers, Supporters and Friends
By the end of November we had recorded over 347 nests, making 2004 the third largest nesting season on record. Of the 285 nests placed in the nursery, 217 have hatched with a total release number of over 18,350 hatchlings. The remaining 68 nests should hatch by January first. Poachers have taken 22 nests and killed 2 turtles. A further 37 nests have been relocated along the different beaches.
You would think that leaving the nests on the beach to hatch naturally would be the best-case scenario. On September 17, we did just that when our nursery filled to capacity. When the first of the 23 nests, left on the beach, began to hatch, we were shocked to find that ants had been responsible for killing over half of the hatchlings. The area in which the nests were placed was selected to avoid heavy horse traffic, excessive lights, and the threat of flooding from high tides, but we had no idea that ants were there as well. Despite the ants, 18 of these nests were evacuated and inventoried revealing an average survival rate of 72%.
So, push has come to shove, and we are now looking into ways to once again, on behalf of the marine turtle, reclaim theses unique and idyllic nesting beaches. Correcting this problem should be a simple task. During the summer months, few homes are occupied, and there are many other beautiful areas to ride horses rather than the beach. Besides, to do the right thing is merely to follow Mexican Environmental laws, which are designed to avoid these problems and protect marine turtles in the first place.
Good news, On November 8 Juan Flores and his son's found a single leatherback nests on Playa Questo. This is the first Leatherback nest recorded here in three years. Juan checked the nest to make sure that the eggs were safely in place, covered the nest and tracks. The Leatherback is the most rare-endangered marine turtle in the world, and may become extinct within 50 year.
More good news, our last three volunteers, Bronny, Paul and Riikka elected to return this coming nesting season. In mid October Paul left for France, but after three weeks he returned to San Pancho to help us finish up this season. On the 22 of November he left for Thailand, where he's been involved in the protection of marine turtles for several years. Bronny and Riikka will remain in San Pancho through the holidays, and help out as needed. Of course, we would love to have any of our past volunteers join this next year.
On November 19, Paul and Bronny were crossing Playa Questo in search of late season nests. They enjoyed their walks along the palm-laden beaches, especially Questo. However, this particular morning, they found the unexpected, a deeply troubling sight that no one would have expected. Above them birds of prey circled, before them were the remains of a freshly killed Olive Ridley turtle. By her tracks, it appeared that she was about to nest when she was butchered in place; as expected the poacher removed the flippers and meat. Playa Questo has always been a serious problem, a difficult area to patrol, and thus is often left open to poachers that come from as far as Puerto Vallarta and from as close as Sayulita. Next year we are going to insist that the military set up camp and remain on that beach throughout the entire nesting season. This is the only known turtle to have been butchered on our beaches in fifteen years.
Frank D. Smith
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C.