by Michele Kinnon (April 2013)
April 15 means it is officially turtle nesting season again on the Riviera Maya! Every year, adult female loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) make their way to the beaches of the Riviera Maya, build their nests and lay up to 150 soft-shelled eggs twice, or more, each season. When the baby turtles hatch (approx. 60 days later), they instinctively head for the water, using the light of the moon for navigation. They smell and taste the sand as they find their way to the ocean and remarkably will return to the very beach where they were born when it comes time for them to nest. According to Centro Ecológico Akumal, in 2012 the Riviera Maya counted 200 loggerhead with 14,856 hatchlings and 596 green turtle nests giving 43,397 hatchlings! Amazing!!
We would like to remind everyone to take care during this important season and here is a list of helpful recommendations to consider during this special time!
1. Do not use lights on the beach. In the evenings, shut off balcony lights, and cover all outside lights and windows if you are in a house/condo.
2. If you see a turtle on the beach or coming ashore to lay her eggs, notify your hotel staff or local turtle patrol so that they can be tracked, and the nest marked and protected.
3. Unless you are under the direct supervision of a local turtle patrol, do not touch the turtles and definitely do not interfere with any part of the nesting process.
4. Do not take flash photography; this will definitely spook the turtles and perhaps disrupt the egg-laying process.
5. Refrain from having parties on the beach during the nesting season, especially at night.
6. Keep the beach free of litter or any obstacles that may get in the path of the turtle. (Bring in beach chairs, kayaks, paddle-boards, etc. at night).
7. Keep pets indoors at night, barking dogs are not turtle-friendly.
8. Do not disturb the nests. If you see what you think is a nest that has not been marked, notify the hotel or the local ecological authorities.
If everyone works together and respects these rules, we can ensure a long and happy life for this endangered species and their continued visits to the Riviera Maya for years to come.
The best way to see the turtle nests and possibly baby turtles being released is to go on a night walk organized by CEA. Centro Ecológico Akumal is a non-profit environmental organization located in Akumal. They take out a maximum of 10 people each weeknight at 9 p.m. CEA is the only organization with permission to access Akumal-area beaches during the nesting season. The suggested donation is $15 US for adults and $10 US for children. Visit the CEA office to make your reservation. There are also regular presentations on the CEA Turtle Watch Program, with slides of the sea turtles and a lecture about their evolution, ecology, behavior, the threats to their survival and how we can help them.