Xcaret Eases Sea Turtles’ Long JourneyBy Fernanda Duque Hernández
2014 a great year for Xcaret’s conservation programs.
The warm beaches of the Quintana Roo coast are where certain turtle species begin their lives. Lives so full of risk and complications from the day they are born. The Riviera Maya eco-park, Xcaret, and the local non-profit Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México, A.C., have worked for 22 years now, helping preserve white, loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles species. So far, more than 7.5 million of baby turtles have reach the sea.
It is hard work, for sure. Come May, volunteers known as tortugueros wait at the shore for hours on end in the middle of the night, protecting turtle eggs that have been recently laid. Once the baby turtles are born, the volunteers help these little babies reach the water and hope that maybe one day they will return, all grown up and ready to continue the circle of life.
Thanks to these efforts, specialists at Xcaret have confirmed a hypothesis that these turtle species do indeed return to spawn at the same beaches where they hatch. Park veterinarians reported that from 2004 to 2014 they recorded the return of 86 white and 5 loggerhead turtles to the Xcacel beach.
One example of this success is one specimen marked under the tag J3630. In 2004 she came back to the same beach she was born at. Since then, this turtle has made 19 nests and had 1,427 babies hatch at that same beach.
But it is not just the turtles’ lives that have changed. The Conservation Program has been an incentive for young people from the Maya community of Tulum. Xcaret and Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México, A.C., have teamed up with community groups such as A’aak to preserve sea turtle populations and let younger members of the community learn an important lesson from the experience baby turtles go through.
One example of this initiative is Luis Angel Cocom. When he was in his teens, he was under the influence of a local gang. Fortunately he could escape from that world when he started to work at the sea turtle protection program. Luis Angel found that he could identify himself with the hard life of the baby sea turtles, many of which, despite the odds, could make their way to the ocean. This story is becoming more common with other young residents of Tulum and the surrounding area.
2014 was also an excellent year for Xcaret’s macaw conservation programs. Last year 27 macaws were reintroduced to their natural habit, the forest of Veracruz and Chiapas. The release of 27 macaws to their natural habitat last year managed to increase the wild macaw population by 41% this year.
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