Armando Lorences

Armando helps weak baby turtle

April 2008
On a recent trip to Akumal I had the opportunity to sit down with Armando Lorences, coordinator of the Turtle Protection Program at CEA. I have had the pleasure of knowing Armando since he first started at CEA, but this time I actually spent time asking him how it was that he became involved with turtles and dedicating his life to them.

This is the first in a series of profiles we will be doing for Given the seriousness of the plight of the sea turtles, the recent phenomena that has attacked the young turtles and with the beginning of turtle season just around the corner (May- November) we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share Armando's profile.

Armando grew up a long way from the shores of the Caribbean Sea, in Mexico City. He first came to the Maya Riviera 20 years ago to Playa Aventuras. Turtles were a fascination of his and so, as a hobby, he started to learn more about them and spent time with professionals who were paving the way in turtle protection.

His degree and background is in administration and so he took a job with DIF from 1988 - 2001. DIF is a Mexican program that works with the poor and underprivileged of all ages. At the time there was a DIF camp at Playa Aventuras that would accommodate between 100 and 120 people from all over the country each week from Monday – Saturday. The camp provided cultural events and environmental activities and it only cost participants the transportation from their homes to Playa Aventuras.

The DIF camp was the first to implement a turtle talk and turtle walk program. It was created by Pedro Viveros León and Julio Zurita, who was a mentors and good friends. Pedro died a couple of years ago but his work continues through those he taught and the lives he touched.

In 2001, Armando took a job working with Xcaret. Xcaret managed a turtle program at 12 beaches along the Maya Riviera. Armando still works closely with Xcaret and their hospital. Sharing information and taking injured sea turtles to their facility.

In 2002 Bahia Principe convinced Armando to come and help them with a their turtle protection program. He put his heart and soul into helping the turtles but, due to personal conflicts with the development and overall corporate destruction, he felt he had to move on.

He left Bahia Principe, but in some ways became even more involved with turtle protection. He was involved with Comite Estatal de Protecion Conservacion, Investigacion y Manejo de la Tortuga Marinia, Quintana Roo, CEPCIMTQROO. This committee involved all the NGO, Government, Federal, Municapals. Marine and Public authorities, including the equivalence of the coast guard and any environmental institution of government and sponsors.

They worked on regulations and management throughout Mexico and shared reports, databases and information. Armando was there and involved the first time all 3 states in the peninsula, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo came together for workshops. He has been a key player in taking information to a regional, national and even International level ever since. In November 2007 he went to Vera Cruz to the National Meeting. Then in January 2008 the 28th International Symposium which was held in Baja, Mexico. Armando explained with great passion the importance of sharing information globally, and he values his contacts because they help everyone to do a better job.

Eventually, Armando found himself at CEA, as the coordinator for the Turtle Protection Program. I asked him what he likes most about his new position. He explained, as much with facial and body expressions as in words, that it is what he sees happen to the volunteers that he enjoys the most. He said that when the volunteers first come he gives them the basic information and encourages them to explore and learn in their own manner but within the guidelines of turtle protection. He strongly believes that by allowing them to learn in ways that inspires each one of them, it allows the volunteers to be more involved and to want to share more thoughts and information. He considers this his luck – to be able to witness the growth and passion of these young people. The expectations are different for each volunteer. And through this program he has seen their ideas change. He loves working with them and being around people who share his passion.

The work these volunteers do is not easy and he appreciates the dedication and sees the passion as their reward. They often work all night in the rain and with the mosquitoes, at times the hours can seem like eternity and the work can be very boring. But through the 3 months that the volunteers work side by side they become true protectors. Armando is extremely aware of the important part they play by going back to their homes wanting to make a difference, committed to the protection and well being of the turtles and the entire Marine eco-system. They become ambassadors because the experience has been life altering and they leave changed and transformed from the experience. This is what brings Armando true job satisfaction, and the fact that the volunteers come from countries around the world is very encouraging to Armando.

I had to ask the obvious – what doesn't he like about his job. And after carefully considering his response he said it is that some people just don't seem to care. With all the information that is available there are still those who refuse to listen and continue to do things that harm the turtles. There is a certain level of frustration at trying to figure out just exactly how the information can get to the people in a way that will make them understand.

And just at that moment our interview was cut short. A small group of tourists came into the CEA Center carrying a bucket. Inside the bucket was a baby hawksbill, about 6-8 months old and it was obviously weak and dehydrated. We talked to the tourists, they had named the turtle Nemo, and came to CEA hoping someone could save the turtle. Armando spent a moment explaining to them that this was a recent phenomena and that he would rush the turtle to Xcaret, where hopefully, through the efforts of these kind people, this baby would actually have a chance to survive. The tourists left, and Armando carried the turtle. On his way out he turned and said “There are good people who care!” Learn more about the recent turtle stranding by visting the CEA site and check back often to read the outcome of the studies.

armando april 08
Akumal Villas

Cabanas Tulum