Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Sea Turtles going, going …

     When most of us think of the beach, we conjure up images of lying in the sun, sipping a cool one, and dining on fresh seafood. Not a bad way to spend a few days. However, for the sea turtle the beach is life. These gentle creatures have been on the earth at least 150 million years (in comparison, humans have been around less than one million). It is sad to watch these magnificent reptiles disappear. Of the estimated hundreds of sea turtle species that once lived, only eight remain. It is amazing that despite their size these creatures are completely defenseless! For poachers they are the easiest of targets.
     Of the world’s eight remaining sea turtle species, seven are found in the waters around Mexico. All species of sea turtles are protected. Most are threatened or endangered and one species, the Kemp’s Ridley, is at the very brink of extinction. Some scientists fear it is already too late.
     Sea turtles have used the same nesting beaches for thousands of years. The females are extremely vulnerable when they return to lay their eggs. Just making their way up the beach is no easy task. And, that is just the beginning; when finished, although exhausted, she has to return to the safety of the sea. If the nest remains undetected by poachers and natural predators, upon hatching, these tiny creatures are prey to many predators such as ghost crabs, foxes, raccoons, opossums and gulls. If they make it to the sea another set of predators, fish and seabirds, are waiting. Only a fraction of turtles that hatch survive this gauntlet, and less than one percent make it to maturity.
     There are those who are desperately trying to make a difference! One such Sea Turtle Camp is Roca Negra, approx. 100 km. south of Puerto Vallarta. Unlike some other turtle camps, Roca Negra is open year round. We (L.W.R.R.) were very fortunate to have been invited to the camp. During the day, we worked on miscellaneous projects, such as monitoring and identifying other species of reptiles, birds, and mammals in the area.
     At night we focused on the turtles, and about 10 pm we headed up to the “corral” to check for hatchings (the hatching are released at the end of the first shift, about 2 am.)  At least two people stay at the corral, in shifts all night.  Others go out on the “quad bikes” and patrol ten km of beach and find turtle nests. The turtles are measured and identified, as well as noting the location of where they nested, the species, etc. Imagine lying (quietly behind the turtle) and “picking up” and counting the eggs, as the turtle lays them. To realize that you are holding in your hands, the next generation…
     The eggs are taken back to “corral workers” where they are recounted and placed into a man-made nest, and “tagged.”  During prime season, (Aug. - Dec.) they have an average of 85 nests a night!  The camp is located on a peninsula; on one side, the lagoon, and the river (estuary), on the other, the ocean.  The staff and volunteers are great.  Even the local pythons come to visit. We look forward to returning in a few months. If you would like more info contact L.W.R.R. (Vern / Lori Geiger) at 765-4916. Roca Negra desperately needs a boat; they are an A.C. Perhaps you can help.