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Newsletter No. 56 - December, 2004
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Hola Volunteers, Supporters and Friends

By December 1st, only 36 of the 298 nests collected this season, remained incubating within our nursery; the last of these should hatch around mid-January. The survival rate is unchanged at 92%, unusually high for so late in the season. Poachers have taken 28; nests, 19 were left on the beach, and 1 turtle killed, for a total of 346 documented this season.

On the morning of November 30th, Juan Flores brought to my attention a Leatherback nest had been found on Playa Questo. Within 30 minutes, Juan and I were examining the top of her nest. From looking at the eggs and her tracks, it appeared the nest was deposited around November 27th . Because the nest was to old too move, we documented its location, and planned to check it every ten days. With luck, she may return around December 10th to deposit a second nest.

On the night of the November 30th, I had finished patrolling the beach, and was insight of the cobblestone road when a persistent sound of snapping metal sent chills up my back. The next morning, Andres and I inspected the buggy and found that the motor, including the transmission, was about to fall out. We towed it into Puerto Vallarta to a custom dune buggy shop where mechanics will replace the motor/transmission mounts, rear suspension system, the clutch, rear oil seal, and front wheel suspension components. When the repairs are completed, it should be totally ready for next season.

The Christmas light experiment designed to elevate nest temperatures during the coldest months has turned out to be extremely effective in keeping nest temperatures within a safe range. We simply placed a single 10-watt light bulbs between each nest box, and plugged them into a timer. The bulbs keep the outside wall of the styrofoam boxes at a temperature of 30°C to 32°C. Together, all the bulbs consumed 330 watts as compared to the less effective 1000-watt space heater used in the past.

One other ongoing experiment: when filling a nest box, the temperature of the sand should be between 30°C to 32°C. It is easy to find sand at that temperature during the heat of the summer, although from mid-October on, beach sand drops below 29°C. When filling a nest box this time of year we now preheat the sand in a frying pan and blend it with cooler, damp sand to a temperature of 32°C This warmer sand is enough to keep the nest box within a safe temperature range until the heat from 10-watt bulbs takes effect. Around the last 12 days of incubation the nest will create it's own internal heat to complete the hatching process.

This year, we plan to produce about 120 copies of the "2005 San Francisco Homeowners Directory" about 2,000 colored printed pages. This directory is produced and given to our local contributors in return for their support. While in the process of printing the first ten copies, our inkjet printer failed, and we soon learned that it would cost us $25 for shipping and handling, plus over two months for the unlimited warranty to return it. Thanks, but no thanks!

For several reasons, another inkjet printer was out of the question. For one, it would take over 120 hours to print 2,000 pages, plus a crate load of ink cartridges. The only alternative was a quality laser printer. Later we found a HP 2550L at 10% off, or less then if we had purchased it in the States. This printer will turn out 2,000 colored pages in less than 11 hours, and no bleeding when the ink comes in contact with water. Between the cost of the laser printer and materials to create the booklet, each copy will cost us a little over five dollars.

Down to two volunteers, Riikka and Andres will stay with the program until mid-December when they plan to move to Mexico City, where Riikka will work within the Embassy of Finland. Paul and Bronny are working their way down to Guatemala, and may return to San Pancho in mid-February on their way to Australia. Gavin is working his way eastward through Mexico on a two months adventure. And I am looking forward to a vacation and the prospect of having an all-return crew next season.

Daytime temps are in the mid-eighties, nighttime temps down to the low seventies and high sixties. Total rainfall since June 1st, 28 inches; November rainfall, .67 inches

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

September Volunteers 2004

First Beach Cleanup in the Summer of 1993

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