Claudia’s San Pancho Marine Turtle Adventure–Earning theTeam Turtle Tattoo

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That afternoon I returned to the group in San Pancho to try my luck with the turtles. Frank greeted me and said we missed out when I was in Nuevo Vallarta because mom turtles had appeared, but I was given the 11:00 pm shift for another guard shift and try my luck. Once I was given the time I went back to find that Sally and Season were ready to go ahead and waiting for us on the beach. There had been some poachers and they needed to protect the turtles as they arrived. I joined the guard with Frank, Ruby, and Katherine, who were girls 16 or 15 years old I guess. They were very friendly too.

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I was in luck because another basket of baby turtles was ready to be released. We took them with us and left quickly when the other team arrived. We went all the way around the beach before finding the first nest. Sally and Season were already guarding that nest. Frank told me to get ready to release the baby turtles with Season.

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She was wearing a swimsuit and carried a lamp to guide the babies to the sea. We stood a few meters away from the water so that the baby turtles could come to the water by themselves. All of them ran their race to reach the sea. It was heartwarming to see how some reached the sea quickly and how with others, it seemed that the sea was playing with them. Two of the hatchlings were left behind. We returned to collect them because they were already tired and had to take a little break before retrying to reach the sea. Later Frank let them run again and so that they finally entered the sea.

I got back in the Buggie to give it another go and saw what I most wanted, a mother turtle was just beginning to dig the hole in the sand to lay her eggs. Katherine and Ruby stayed to care for her while Frank and I went back to finish the lap around the beach. Finally, I got off with Sally and Season. I could see how the turtle wanted to lay her eggs. She really was making an effort. When she finished with the egg laying she began to fill the nest with sand with her fins. They seemed like small hands with webbed fingers. After she filled the hole, she walked over the sand and repeated the process until it was completely covered.
I couldn’t believe the strength of the mother. I could feel the earth rumble when she was flattening the sand. Once she finished she returned to the sea so fast that I couldn’t get a video of it.

Here’s where the real work began. Sally and Season quickly marked the spot with a large X to identify the center of the nest. They used a rod to stir a little sand around the nest, I imagine to loose up the packed sand. Then they started digging carefully until they reached the eggs. These must be removed carefully and are placed in a plastic bag in groups of three. When the eggs are all collected, the final count is written on a card along with the beach area they were found and the time.

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When we came across a second turtle nest, Ruby and Katherine invited me to collect the eggs. I was afraid I wouldn’t dig well or even break an egg. They are very soft. However, I managed it. There were 97 eggs in that nest. There are never fewer than 70 eggs per nest.

We collected eggs from 5 mom turtles altogether that night. The last we collected just in time. Someone was there collecting the eggs in his raincoat while the mom was still laying them. That should never be done since it may cause the mother to not come back to the beach. I don’t know what agreement Frank came to with the person, but we managed to get most of the eggs safely. To top it off, we saw the same person with another turtle. That left me worried about what would happen to the eggs from that turtle.

We returned to the facility at 2:00 am to start packing eggs. First, you must prepare the sand using a bucket to measure the amount of water. The sand should not be completely wet, but damp.

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Season explained the packing process to me.
“When we pack the turtle eggs we first have to see how many eggs there are in a bag and pick a box size based on of the amount of eggs. Depending on the box you will have rows changing between fives and fours (added up to 36). The thick wall boxes will only have rows of four (28 on the bottom, 32 in the middle, and 28 on the top). The other two boxes will have 36 on both the bottom and middle rows and whatever you have leftover will go on the top. For the data collecting (paperwork) we write down where the nest was found on the beach, the total number of eggs in the box, the number of eggs on each layer in the box, if there was rain and/or lightning when the turtle was laying, if the turtle was there when the nest was found, who collected the nest, who packed the box, the location of the box in the nursery, and whether or not any eggs were broken. ”

We finally finished packing the eggs at 3:00 am. It was a long night and I was exhausted. The next morning was my last day, so I did some shopping and walked alaong nearly all the major streets in San Pancho. Then I went back to the facility to say goodbye to my fellow volunteers. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to Frank because he was busy working. I did say goodbye to Joslin. She took my picture and handed me my Team Turtle Tatto because I had seen a mom turtle and collected her turtle eggs.

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This trip was very gratifying and educational. In the late afternoon, I went to watch the last sunset on the beach. The scenery was very beautiful. The sky was divided into three parts. The left side was gray from heavy rain falling in Sayulita. The middle was a pink and orange sunset. The right side was pastel blue and lilac. It was my farewell from San Pancho.

So that ends my adventure to Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta. I hope to return soon to help save more marine turtles with “Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde”.

(Claudia’s adventures do not end here.  Just a few weeks ago, she left behind the Mexican dream and moved to the US.  She’s planning on blogging her experiences and I for one, look forward to reading Surviving the US–Adventures and Disasters)

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Ya tarde/noche en San Pancho volví al grupo para probar suerte con las tortugas. Frank me saludó y dijo que nos extrañaron en la noche que estaba en Nuevo Vallarta porque habían aparecido tortugas mamá, pero me citó a las 11:00 pm para iniciar otra guardia y probar mi suerte. Una vez dada la hora llegué nuevamente al lugar, Sally y Season estaban listas para partir y se adelantaron para esperarnos en la playa, habían aparecido algunos ladrones, había que cuidar pronto de las tortugas que llegaran. El grupo con quien me uní a la guardia fue con Frank, Rubí y Katherine, chicas de 16 o 15 años me supongo, a quienes conocí más tarde, muy amigables también.

Para mi buena fortuna había otra canastilla de bebés tortuga listas para ser liberadas y las llevamos con nosotros y por fin el equipo partió rápido para llegar, dimos una vuelta completa por toda la playa antes de encontrar el primer nido el cual ya estaban custodiando Sally y Season; Frank me dijo que bajara para liberar a las tortugas bebé junto con Season.

Ella iba con traje de baño y una lámpara para guiar a los bebés al mar. Los colocamos unos metros lejos del agua para que las tortuguitas llegaran por si mismas hasta el agua. Todas corrían su carrera por llegar al mar, era emociónate ver como algunas tocaban rápido el agua y otras parecía que el mar jugaba con ellas. Dos de las tortuguitas se quedaron atrás y las volvimos a recoger porque ya estaban cansadas y debían tomar un pequeño descanso antes de volver a intentar que llegaran al mar, más tarde Frank las dejó correr nuevamente y por fin entraron al mar.

Volví a subir al Boogie para dar otro rondín y por vi lo que tanto deseaba, una mamá tortuga estaba recién empezando a cavar el agujero en la arena para colocar sus huevos; Rubí y Katherine se quedaron a cuidarla, Frank y yo volvimos para terminar la vuelta a la playa y finalmente me bajamos con Season y Sally, pude observar cómo la tortuga suspiraba para pujar y colocar sus huevos, realmente estaba haciendo un esfuerzo. Cuando terminó empezó con sus aletas traseras a llenar de arena el nido, parecían pequeñas manos con dedos palmeados jalando la arena y después de jalar pisaba la arena y repetía el procedimiento hasta dejar bien tapado. Se sentía la fuerza de la madre porque hacía retumbar la tierra cuando aplanaba la arena; una vez que termina vuelve tan rápido al mar que no logré grabar su retorno.

Aquí comienza el trabajo, Sally y Season rápidamente marcan el lugar con una X grande para indicar el centro del nido. Después con una varilla pican un poco la arena alrededor del nido, me imagino que para soltar la arena aplanada, luego se comienza a cavar con cuidado hasta llegar a los huevos. Se debe sacar con cuidado y éstos se colocan dentro de una bolsa de plástico contando por grupos de tres, (3=1, 3=2, 3=3….) al final se hace la cuenta de la cantidad de huevos colocados y se marca la bolsa con el número de huevos recolectados, zona de la playa y la hora. También pude sacar huevos de un nido de la segunda tortuga que llegó, Rubí y Katherine me invitaron a hacerlo, tenía miedo de no cavar bien o incluso de romper un huevo al sacarlo, son muy blandos. Pero logré hacerlo y había 97 huevos en ese nido, wow, no nunca hay menos de 70 huevos en un nido.

En total esa noche recolectamos huevos de 5 mamás tortugas, la última por poco y no la contábamos, una persona había llegado antes que nosotros y estaba sacando los huevos en su impermeable cuando la tortuga aún estaba poniéndolos en el nido; eso no se debe hacer, ya que se invade la privacidad de la madre y esto puede motivarla a no volver más a esa playa. No sé a qué acuerdo llego Frank con esa persona pero logró hacer que nos lleváramos los huevos y ponerlos a salvo, pero para colmo más adelante lo volvimos a ver junto a otra tortuga, no supe qué iba a pasar con los huevos de esa otra tortuga, pero sí me dejó angustiada.

Volvimos a las 2:00 am al grupo para empezar a empaquetar los huevos. Primero se debe preparar la arena, la medida es una cubeta; esta arena no debe de estar del todo mojada, debe de estar en un término medio.

(esto lo pongo en ingles porque Season me explico mejor el proceso de empaquetado)

When we pack the turtle eggs we first have to see how many eggs there are in a bag and pick a box size based off on the amount of eggs. Depending on the box you will have rows changing between fives and fours (added up to 36). The thick wall boxes will only have rows of four (28 on the bottom, 32 in the middle, and 28 on the top). The other two boxes will have 36 on both the bottom and middle rows and whatever you have leftover will go on the top. For the data collecting (paperwork) we write down where the nest was found on the beach, the total number of eggs in the box, the number of eggs on each layer in the box, if there was rain and/or lightning when the turtle was laying, if the turtle was there when the nest was found, who collected the nest, who packed the box, the location of the box in the nursery, and whether or not any eggs were broken.

Y finalmente terminamos de empacar los huevos a las 3:00 am.

Fue una noche pesada y caí rendida. A la mañana siguiente era mi último día, así que hice mis últimas compras y paseada por casi todas las calles principales de San Pancho. Después fui al grupo a despedirme de mis compañeros voluntarios, del único que no pude despedirme fue de Frank porque estaba ocupado con sus labores.

De quien sí me despedí mejor fue de Joslin, nos tomamos una foto para el recuerdo y me entregó mi Team Turtle Tattoo porque había visto y recolectado los huevos de una mamá tortuga.

Fue muy grato todo lo que viví y aprendí de este viaje. Al casi final de la tarde fui a ver el ultimo atardecer en la playa de ese día, el paisaje era muy hermoso, esa vez la playa de San Pancho estaba dividido en tres partes, la izquierda del lado de Sayulita color gris por la fuerte lluvia que caía, en medio colores rosas y narajas por el sol y del lado derecho colores azules pastel y lilas. Esa fue mi despedida de San Pancho.

Esa fue mi Aventura por Nayarit y Puerto Vallarta, espero volver pronto para volver a ayudar por más tiempo al “Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde”.

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1 Comment

Filed under Guest Blogger Adventures, Tourist Sites in Mexico

One response to “Claudia’s San Pancho Marine Turtle Adventure–Earning theTeam Turtle Tattoo

  1. Wow what a process to save the turtle eggs from poachers! We are lucky that we do not have them yet, to my knowledge. Thank you for doing this important work and for sharing the details!

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

    Liked by 1 person

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