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Hola Volunteers, Supporters and Friends

In the last newsletter I wrote about a nesting turtle that had lost her hind flipper. Without the flipper she was unable to dig a nest hole, although she would not give up trying. Unfortunately her lengthy exposure on shore gave a particular poacher enough time find to her. The next morning, she was found dead, cut open just for her eggs. I also wrote about one very skillful poacher who had taken at least 80% of the nests since the beginning of the season. The culprit of both of these crimes turned out to be Polo, a longtime resident of San Pancho. He was arrested on September 2nd while attempting to sell eggs in La Peñita, a community 16 miles to the north. He was eventually sent to jail in Tepic where he confessed to killing scores of other turtles over the years, including the one mentioned above.

Nine years ago, Polo was turned in to the police for poaching; but when the authorities went to arrest him, he could not be found. Weeks later they discovered that he had signed up in the Mexican Marines, where he remained for seven-years. About two years ago, he returned to San Pancho and, once again, picked up the bad habit of poaching, which lead to his arrest in La Peñita.

By the end of September, over 275 nests had been documented, making 2004 the third largest nesting season since we started keeping records fourteen years ago. Out of 237 nests placed in our nursery, sixty have hatched, yielding over 5,300 hatchlings and a higher than normal survival rate of 93%. On the morning of October 5th, a dead Hawksbill turtle was found in the lagoon. This is the first of its kind to be identified in this area. On the night of October 6th, volunteers patrolling Playa Questo found the largest Olive Ridley nest recorded in this area, 151 eggs.

After many years of what could be considered a strenuous working relationship, we have decided to discontinue all further interpretive activities at the Costa Azul Resort. Our quests to resolve ecological differences lead to the termination of our cooperation.

As I mentioned in our last newsletter, our slideshow presentation has moved to Gallo’s Pizza Restaurant, held on Thursday nights at seven. Gallo has offered us the opportunity to conduct the slideshow as the Group feels appropriate. In summary, the presentations have taken on a festive atmosphere. Please come and join us for outstanding pizza and a fine selection of beverages.

We have also started a promising collaboration with Vallarta Adventures. This tour company comes daily to visit San Pancho and has enabled us to raise awareness with their guests and fundraiser.

The end of a good trail. In order to collect nests on Playa Quest, it was necessary to travel down a steep, rough, muddy, one-mile road. For over nine years, this road had inflicted more damage on the buggy than all other roads combined. By mid-September of this year, the road had became so eroded and overgrown that safe passage was no longer possible. We have no idea if the Questo road will ever be reopened again. On the other hand, trying to reach Questo by foot from San Pancho was often dangerous, if not impossible. Foraging the river during rains is out of the question, and after heavy rains it could take two weeks before the river was safe to cross. Today, the only way that Questo can be reached is to travel over John Hardesty’s road.

Generally, the month of September yields the most rain, although this September produced less than normal, only 14.5 inches, half of this amount falling within three separate thunderstorms. And talk about luck: Not a drop of rain fell throughout the entire eight-day San Francisco celebration. In fact, there has been no moisture at all since September 23rd. Last month’s highest daytime temperature was 93°; lowest nighttime temperature, 77°. After waves from hurricane Javier smoothed and cleared the beaches of all debris, the Sept. 21st and 22nd thunderstorms again covered the beach with debris washed from the river.

By mid-September we were down to three international volunteers: Bronny, Mariska, and Donny. By the end of September, Paul had returned from a short vacation, Jeff and Amanda arrived from Oregon , Gavin from Newfoundland and Eveline from Switzerland. On October 2nd, Donny and Mariska continued traveling through Mexico before returning home to the Netherlands. This year all our volunteers have performed exceptionally well. They have made a big difference regarding our battle against poaching. I would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication. (See the image below)

Frank D. Smith
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C.

September Volunteers 2004

Left, Donny and Mariska from the Netherlands
Top center, Amanda and Jeff from Oregon
Bottom center, Paul from France & Bronny form Australia
Right, Gavin from Canada & Eveline from Switzerland

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