As you may have heard, Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli holds a camp each summer for local children. This two-week camp includes many different activities for the children and could not happen without the help of our volunteers, from near and far.
The children learn not just about sea turtles, but about taking care of the environment (and why we need to) and taking care of themselves (nutrition and exercise). We have arts and crafts, field trips, and educational games. While they are focused on the fun activities, they often don’t even notice that they are reading, writing and doing arithmetic!
Arts and Crafts
Kathleen and Raul doing arts and crafts
Kathleen and Felipe drawing with children
Last year we had a special volunteer, all the way from Ireland. Kathleen came to the area for a period of time to help out in the Children’s Library of Barra de Potosi. She just happened to be here during our summer camp the 3rd and 4th weeks of July. Since many of the children that use the library were attending the camp, she found out about it and wanted to participate. Not only did she help out from 7am to 2pm every day at the camp, but she was also the chaperone on the van that transported many of the children to camp each day. What a trooper!
Kathleen helping children with beach cleanup
Leaning circle with Damaris teaching about sea turtles
Field Trip to El Refugio
Kathleen liked what she was doing so much, that she even came back some evenings to participate in hatchling releases. Through her curiousness and flexibility, she learned a lot about sea turtles and the challenges they face because of the changing environment. She went home as an advocate for sea turtles and for the environment! And, we have yet another forever friend on the other side of the world! Isn’t it funny and wonderful how life works out?
We are so proud, and were very excited to learn that on May 18th Kathleen was awarded the Global Citizen Award – Gold Award!
Kathleen Receiving Award
Kathleen with Award
Here is a video of Kathleen’s acceptance speech.
In her note to us about the award she said:
In my application, one of the main things I talked about was the Turtle Sanctuary which I am so proud to talk about and promote. So when I accept, I will be thinking of you. Xx Kathleen
Congratulations Kathleen!!!! You so deserve this very special award. We hope to see you again someday our friend!
Xx, Your friends at Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli
Of course, the summer camp cannot happen on volunteers support alone. If you think the summer camp is a worthwhile activity, won’t you please consider supporting it?
We make it so easy to do! On our One-Time Donation page, we have two very special categories. Education Sponsor, which makes you a general sponsor of summer camp activities and supplies. The other option is a Summer Camper Scholarship, which enables one child to attend the camp for free, including transportation.
Thank you, as always, for your generosity and support!
It is with some sadness and a huge sense of accomplishment that we report our last scheduled patrol of the season (30 April 2019). We’ve been patrolling daily since last July and the season is now at its’ end. Your blogging couple here drew the lucky stick and was on the schedule for the last day!
We will still do random patrols a couple of times each week just to check for late comers, and to check on the beach. Of course, we will continue to respond to calls from our locals who see turtles or tracks (call 755.121.1021), so if you see something – say something!
Preparation for Patrol.
Our dogs Lillie and Sassafras want to come. Yes Sassafras is the same dog from ‘Abandoned dogs picture!’
ATV waiting to go
Patrol backpack, cooler and bags
Permit, First aid kit, gloves, measuring tape and nest tags
As we wrap up the season, we thought it would be interesting and/or fun to report our statistics and to relate some of our patrol stories.
We volunteers have finished a patrol with as many as 20-something nests, we’ve come back empty-handed, and everything in between. We have been hot. We have been cold. We have been dry and wet. We have seen multiple mamas on the beach in one night and gone days or longer without seeing one. And we have loved every minute!
We have found nests with the first poke of our stick (think mic-drop!) and poked, poked, poked to the point of almost giving up when we found the soft spot (think falling forward because you are not expecting it).
In addition to the turtles we saw this year, we had some wonderful and some oddball things show up on the beach at night. We’ve seen crocodile tracks (thankfully no crocodiles close-up!), giant drawings left behind by vacationers, wandering horses, skunks, lots of dogs, a variety of deceased sea life, and an amazing amount of night sky events. We’ve seen huge orange full moons, shooting stars, total blackness providing a great view of the Milky Way, planets looking down on us, clear bright skies and skies with clouds and rain. And on this very last patrol, we got to see a neon blue show of bioluminescence created by red tide in the rolling waves! So amazing!
Oddest things left behind on the beach:
Etchings in the sand
Those are diapers left behind on the beach!
The new night-time perspective of our beautiful beach is priceless.
Volunteer Steve says “I think the thing I enjoyed most was taking volunteers and visitors out on patrol and seeing their faces when they had that National Geographic moment. That and the turtle releases, handing out the babies to the kids. I asked one little girl what she named her turtle, and she looked at me with determination and said “Bob”…. well, ok then…”
Wendy says “We love the peacefulness. Loved the design tracks of different turtles- Golfina prints grazing the sand surface/ Prieta engraving the sand/ Laud took the farm tractor for a spin!
National Geographic moments were coming along a turtle, watching her lay her eggs and seeing her return to the ocean and then when we dug the eggs out how warm the nest was and holding the eggs with gloved hand to rebury. Very magical to see the fruits of our labor of love producing turtles 45 days later.
Most surprising live creatures (other than turtles) we encountered:
Puppies abandoned at the camp
Croc in the road
We (Patty and Mitchell) had a hotel caretaker wave us down to let us know a turtle had been there. He had noted the exact spot and was waiting for the patrol to pass by, as he knew we always do. Later in the season we came upon him keeping dogs away from a mama turtle so she could crawl safely to the sea! These interactions certainly restore one’s faith in the human race.
We found and returned a cell phone to a night reveler who lost his phone on the beach. We are pretty sure we got him in trouble with his girlfriend by our good Samaritan efforts! Apparently, she did not know he had been to a party on the beach.
We lost a metal water bottle one night and the next night’s team found it which goes to show how quiet our beach can be.
A sample of deceased creatures (other than turtles) we encountered:
Fish tangled in net
Counts for the season starting in July 2018
Logged items (this includes any sighting or evidence of a turtle on the beach, live or deceased)
Nests rescued – 1,084
Eggs collected – 97,046
Turtles encountered (live) – 121
Turtles tagged – 68
Turtles encountered (deceased) – 26
Nests poached by dogs – 113
Nests poached by humans – 127
Turtles poached (killed) by dogs – 3
Turtles poached (taken) by humans – 2
We are already making plans for next season, talking about changes and/or improvements we can make. Some things are in process now and will be a reality before we get started next season and some are pie-in-the-sky dreams.
One thing we would love to improve upon next year is our patrol frequency. Currently, we are limited by both funds and manpower to doing one patrol per night. With 2 patrols on a given night, we hope that we can decrease the poaching numbers. You can see in the above list that we have lost 240 nests to dog and human poachers combined this year. Since the poachers don’t always come out when we are around, more of us means less of them!
To that end, if you are local, please consider joining our team. There are many ways to get involved! We think patrol is great fun, but if going out in the middle of the night is not for you, we have lots of other volunteer opportunities. Maybe helping out at releases, or the Ecotianguis in Zihuatanejo is more up your alley? We can also have ‘desk jobs’ (reporting, marketing, blog writing, and more) if you are not able to come on-site!
If you are not local, won’t you consider becoming a sustaining member? This will help us put gas in the ATV tanks and keep them both running.
Thank you all for your love and support this season!
If you are still in town, we do still have hatchlings on the schedule for the next 45 days or so. Check our Facebook page for release announcements.
Well, this is a first for us. A family of supporters each want their very own nest!
Robert & Kathern
A couple from Montana that live here part time and support the camp full time contacted us recently to talk about a very special adoption.
First the back story!
Kathern and her husband Robert spend their winters in Playa Blanca in order to escape the snow and cold of their ranch up north. Given the long Montana winters, they escape just some, not all, of the cold snowy weather, often leaving snow in the early winter and returning to the final snows of spring!
They have been coming to Playa Blanca since before the Turtle Camp was founded. Soon after the camp began, Kathern visited and become hooked. She is what we would call an unofficial volunteer. Even though she is not on our volunteer list, she is always on the lookout for turtles and turtle tracks.
Kathern with her rescued nest
She has often called us to report tracks leading to a nest or turtles on the beach along one of her lengthy walks. In one case, she helped our patrol volunteer locate and rescue the eggs of a nest she had seen. In another case she gathered up neighbors to surround a group of about 75 baby turtles that were crawling to the sea right in front of the beachfront community where she and Robert live. They worked together to keep the babies safe and even leveled out some of the sand in front of the little crawlers to make the long trek little bit easier.
Another one of her unofficial volunteer activities is beach cleanup. Walking on the beach daily for exercise, Kathern will come back with bags full of trash and recyclable items, even alternating direction daily for maximum effect. This does so much to protect the turtles’ habitat, and we are so fortunate to have Kathern and several other like-minded and dedicated folks who help keep our beaches clean.
Now about the family!
Some years ago, Kathern and Robert’s 3 grown children decided that instead of exchanging Christmas presents among themselves and their children, they would pool the money and find a charity where they could donate their ‘Christmas Presents’. In the past, they have helped one of our local schools here. A visit to the school by the grandchildren really impressed upon them how fortunate they are.
Except for one of their grandchildren, everyone in the family was here to celebrate a milestone birthday of Robert’s and one of the activities they participate in while here, was…a baby turtle release! They have seen the work we do first-hand, and this year they selected us to receive their ‘Christmas Present’. We all thought it would be great fun to put the donation towards adopted nests for the whole family! Each of the four adult couples and every one of the eight grandchildren will be the proud parent of their own baby turtle nest!
Jennifer, Travis, Alexis, Ethan and Grace Evans
McKinley, Matt, Allison and Connor Miles
Megan, Taylor, Brad, Carson and Macy Evans
We were very touched to hear Kathern tell us a story about one grandson. Two years ago, he was given a small amount of spending money to buy Christmas gifts for his two siblings. His parents suggested that he use this money for someone less fortunate. So he asked his grandmother if she could buy some soccer balls for the local school children instead. You can really see how this dedication to helping others has passed from generation to generation in the Evans family!
Since it is the end of the season and we will probably not have a nest for everyone before it ends, we decided together with Kathern and Robert to wait until the beginning of next season. This way everyone will have their nests found within a short time of one another. Do we see a game for the children – whose nest will hatch first? Sorry to say, you will all have to wait till July or August for pictures of their nests, so stay tuned!
We will be sure to write an update blog as their family adoptions go from nest collection to hatchling release.
Ayotlcalli no es solamente “La Casa de la Tortuga”, sino que también es la casa de tres perros: Blacky, Fox y Bella, aparte de Lily, una perrita que vive dentro. Si usted ha asistido a una liberación, seguro que conoce a éstas dulces mascotas del campamento. Ellos protegen el corral, el área de liberación y por las noches nos acompañan en nuestro patrullaje. De verdad que trabajan muy duro. Muchos otros caninos han estado en el campamento mientras encontraban un hogar para el resto de sus vidas, tal es el caso de Diego, Yoyo, Lilie y otros, quienes han sido adoptados por voluntarios del mismo campamento.
Esta mañana temprano, mientras los voluntarios regresaban de su recorrido, se encontraron con que teníamos tres cachorros más. Desafortunadamente, abandonar a las mascotas es muy común en ésta área y siempre hay varios de ellos viviendo en la playa. Cuando el número de perros callejeros aumenta, también aumenta el numero de ataques a las tortugas que salen a desovar. Nuestra meta es doble: ayudar a estos perritos y proteger a la población de tortugas marinas.
Nosotros amamos a los perros y quisiéramos quedarnos con todos, pero desgraciadamente no podemos..(bueno, aunque sea uno)…¡son tan lindos!
Esta mañana pedimos a nuestros patrocinadores que nos ayuden a encontrar un hogar permanente para estos adorables cachorros. Los llevaremos hoy al veterinario para que los revisen. Les daremos un buen baño, bastante comida, agua y mucho amor mientras estén con nosotros.
Si usted puede ayudarnos a encontrar un hogar permanente para uno, dos o a los tres, enviénos un correo electrónico a info.ayotlcalli.com, o si puede contribuir con una donación para cubrir los costos de su cuidado y alimentación, también lo agradecemos.
It seems like the last couple of posts have not been happy ones, so it is time to switch that up with a happy post.
Close up and personal!
Last night we had another special release of an adopted nest! This nest was a big one – 123 eggs. 92 of the hatchlings made their journey to the sea last night, and likely some more will tonight!
Some of you have asked about the nests with the hearts painted on the water bottles surrounding them and learned that these nests have been adopted. We thought it would be fun to share how this process works and what you would receive as an adoptive parent of a nest.
First, as the adoptive parent you would receive pictures from the night the nest was rescued and relocated, along with information like species and number of eggs. In the case where mama turtle was present, you would receive pictures of her as well.
Along with these pictures, you receive a certificate of adoption in your name, or in the name of the recipient if you give the adoption as a gift. Adopted nests make great birthday presents..hint-hint.
Eggs being recovered from the beach
Volunteer locating eggs in the nest
Volunteer holding eggs
Clutch of 123 eggs ready for reloaction
Then when ‘your’ babies are born, we take pictures and/or video of them as they first hatch.
Finally, more pictures and/or video of them being released and crawling to the sea.
Baby turtles on the way to the sea
Close up and personal!
Babies and their tracks
Make sure to watch this video all the way to the end. It is worth the 43 seconds, we promise!
If this sounds like fun to you (we sure think it is!), won’t you consider adopting a nest?
Hello again. We are sad to be writing with more bad news so soon! This is a story about another night on patrol.
So when we leave on patrol in the wee morning hours, the first decision is ‘Which way do we turn?” Left toward Barra de Potosí or right toward Playa Larga. Some of us alternate, some always start with the same direction, some of us go on a hunch or a feeling. My partner and I go by hunch, the beach usually calls in one direction or the other.
Last night it called us in both directions. We were torn, but decided to turn left toward the scene of the kidnapping of Senora Tortuga 2 nights ago. We didn’t get very far and we saw some dogs run off down by the ocean. Then we saw a long set of tracks ending where the dogs were. They had begun digging up the nest, but apparently we got there just in time. There were about a dozen broken eggs in and around the nest, but the remainder of the nest was intact with 74 eggs that we rescued. Yay for us! We went the right way.
The rest of the way to Barra de Potosi and back was fairly uneventful. There were two turtles who crawled around on the beach, but did not lay eggs. One started to nest in a few places, but then moved on. We could see many dog paw prints so we figured the dogs scared her off.
Note one set of turtle tracks at the top of the frame. Her tracks are barely visible under the dog prints at the bottom of the frame.
We moved on to Playa Larga and after a short time saw a set of tracks, which we followed all the way up to the dune, which is a pretty long way on that end of our beach. We got there, and followed the tracks to, again, several places where she started to dig. Then we saw her tracks going back toward the water, and OH NO! There were TONS of dog prints covering her tracks. We could tell they were behind her, beside her, all around her as she tried to escape. So we followed the trail of dog prints. When we got closer to the shore, we could see what we most feared. The dogs had killed her. Her tail was mostly gone, the back of her shell partially broken off, her back end torn apart, and her flippers, neck and face bitten. They savaged her so badly that bloody eggs from inside her were laying on the beach around her.
Now we know why we were being pulled in both directions…we saved a nest of eggs, but lost a mama turtle.
Egg torn from Mama turtle
After documenting and measuring the poor girl, we did what we had to do and continued on patrol. We found one more set of tracks where dogs had chased the turtle off. These dogs came out to greet us as we explored. One had a collar and they appeared to be well fed. So while they chased her off, thankfully, they were not looking for food.
After our last blog post about the kidnapping two days ago, someone commented that we “should have patrols on rotation day and night”. Wouldn’t we love to have the resources to do that??? In reality the night time is what we need covered, since that is when our ladies come out to nest. Ideally, we would like to have two patrols on each night – one going south, the other going north, each on their own ATV. With two patrols, we would be able to have them patrol each side of the beach not once, but twice (or more in peak season). This would make us much more likely to chase off predators – human and canine.
Why don’t we just that, then? Well, limitation of resources is the only answer. Running a patrol takes two precious resources, which we do not have an abundance of…money for ATV gas and maintenance(this environment sure is hard on a vehicle!), and volunteers to drive those ATV’s!
If you agree that this seems like a good idea, will you please consider donating to support this effort?
Or maybe you would consider joining our great group of patrol volunteers. If you have questions about that, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again for reading, and for supporting our cause!
Last night on patrol two of our volunteers came upon a situation that, while infrequent, we think bears reporting.
It started out as a good thing. They saw a set of tracks in the sand letting them know that a nesting female had passed this way. This is great news, since it is the end of the season and we don’t find nests every night. They quickly realized that there was only one set of tracks, which told them she had not yet returned to the sea. Double good news, they thought. We get to see her, check her for tags and/or tag her, and watch her return safely to the sea. There is nothing more special on a night with a bright moon like last night than to watch her as she floats back into the waves.
They followed the tracks up the beach but….NO TURTLE! What they did find were human footprints! First walking along beside the turtle and converging closer to her. Then her tracks stopped and it was just the human footprints going over the dune, side by side like they were carrying something.
Two sets of human footprints following the mama turtle! At the top of the frame, the turtle tracks stop and the human tracks continue.
This poor girl! All she wanted to do was to lay her nest, and just think of the terror she experienced at the hands of these cruel humans. Unfortunately, we have to assume that she is now deceased.
At this point, maybe you are asking ‘Why?’ Why would someone do this? For what purpose? Well, just like the many egg poachers on our beach (126 nests poached this season, including one last night), the answer is usually money.
It is an unfortunate reality here that turtle meat and turtle eggs can be sold to those who think there is something mystical or medicinal about them. Just to be clear – there isn’t. Neither the meat nor the eggs have anything medicinal about them.
They are NOT an aphrodisiac, they will NOT make you strong, they will NOT make you more manly, they will NOT cure ANY illness.
Maybe now you are asking yourself ‘Why?’ Why are we sharing this horrible story with our friends and supporters? Well, we are sharing for a few reasons:
Poached Nest – Note footprints and hole at the top of the tracks
Maybe someone saw something or heard something that can lead to the apprehension of the people who committed this crime (YES, it is a crime!)
To raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers faced by our female sea turtles when they come on the beach to nest.
To raise awareness and educate the public about the difficulties we face trying to protect these fine ladies.
To help spread the word that there is nothing magical or medicinal about consuming sea turtles or the eggs.
And finally, to let you know what to do if you if you are ever fortunate enough to encounter a live adult or baby turtle:
Stay with him or her till they make it safely to the sea. If there is a good human nearby, no one will bother them. Humans with bad intentions will stay away in fear of being reported. Dogs and other predators will stay away too!
Don’t touch them with your bare hands, as the oils on our skin are dangerous to them.
Let them get to the sea of their own accord, unless it is not possible.
If they are injured or appear ill call someone. Here in Playa Larga, Playa Blanca or Barra de Potosi, that would be us. There are organizations like ours on many beaches that can help.
Thank you to all of our supporters for being informed and helping us with our mission. We could not do this without you!
Ayotlcalli is not only the “house of turtles” but also (currently) the home of three “camp dogs” – Blackie, Fox, and Bella as well as the inside dog White Lily. If you have been to a release, you are sure to have met these three sweet “camp” pups. They defend our hatchery, defend the area when we are releasing baby turtles, and also come on patrol with us. They are hard workers, for sure.
And, there are many more that have been with the camp on their way to forever homes, most recently Diego, Yoyo, and Black Lillie (all adopted by volunteers at the camp!).
Early this morning as our patrol volunteers returned to camp just as the sun was rising, they found that our camp dog count had increased by three. Unfortunately, dumping dogs is not unusual in the area and there are always some number of stray dogs living on this beach. When the numbers of stray dogs grow, the number of mama turtles attacked on the beach by dogs grows as well. So our goal is twofold; help these sweet puppies and protect our sea turtle population.
Now, we love dogs and would keep them all if we could but, unfortunately we can’t. Well, maybe one…they are so cute!
So this morning, we’re asking for our great network of supporters to help us find these adorable cuties their own forever homes. We’ll take them to the vet today for a check up, they’ll all get a good bath, and lots of food, water, and love while they are with us.
If you can help us find one, two, or all three of these adorable pups find permanent homes, please email us at email@example.com. Or, if you want to help us out with a donation to contribute toward some of cost of their care, we would certainly appreciate that too!
Everyone at the camp was excited when the first hatchlings of one of our Leatherback (Laúd) nests emerged recently.
Over the course of the next several days, many more babies emerged from the nest and were released to the ocean. We even had an adopter of a later leatherback nest (and longtime friend of Ayotlcalli) participate in one of these releases.
Due to a decline in the population of male Leatherbacks, these nests typically have many unfertilized eggs, leading to low hatch rates compared to our Olive Ridley (Golfina) and Black Sea Turtle (Prieta) nests. However this nest did very well, exceeding our expectations.
We would like thank the adopters of this December 16 nest for their support – so thanks to Isabella & Arden. And thanks to all our Members this season!
If you would like to become an adopter, please visit our adopt-a-nest page.
The photo gallery below follows this nest from the day we found and relocated the nest through the release of hatchlings.
First a warning that this post contains some graphic photos.
So last night Felipe, who you all know, went out on patrol with Pablo and Steven. Pablo is a young volunteer who is still in school and comes every Saturday to help out. Steven is an awesome drop in volunteer who has been with us just over a week. He dropped in (literally) from the sky in his own airplane at exactly the moment we really needed him.
These three had quite an eventful night in more than one way.
Shortly after leaving on patrol, they came upon a mama Golfina turtle who had been attacked by a pack of dogs. She had already laid her eggs when she was attacked. She was in bad shape, but still alive and trying to crawl when they found her. They brought her back to camp, bandaged her and put her in a safe place till morning when we could call the veterinarian who helps us in these cases. Then back to her nest of eggs to save them from the pack of dogs.
Since mama Golfina was safely in camp, and there was no more they could do for her, Steven stayed behind to keep watch and Felipe and Pablo continued with their beach patrol.
Mama Golfina attacked by dogs
Mama Golfina attacked by dogs
Mama Golfina attacked by dogs
Mama Golfina resting at camp
Mama Golfina bandages
A little further down the beach….
They found a LEATHERBACK / LAÚD nest!!!
Tracks in the sand
Leatherback egg and tracks
Eggs being recovered from nest
This is only 5th of the season, so it is very exciting news for us!
With Felipe’s experience and expertise, he could tell that poachers had been at the nest looking for her eggs. Thankfully, they either gave up or were chased away when our crew approached.
Whatever the reason, we are so relieved that the poachers did not find them. Our guys found the eggs, which is no easy task since they are about 1 meter deep! They recovered 66 viable eggs, which are now safely snuggled in our hatchery.
Now the sad news…upon their return to camp, we had some very bad news for them.
Even though they got the dogs away from her, bandaged her, and covered her with wet towels to keep her hydrated, she sadly did not make it. The damage done was just too bad. This is our first known dog attack this season. After having many last season, we had not had any this season.
This night highlights two of the reasons that we feel the need to be out patrolling the beach every night. Poaching of eggs and mama turtles by both people and dogs are both a big problem here. So, we keep patrolling hoping (knowing?) that we are chasing some of them off and keeping some our turtles safe!
Won’t you consider helping us continue to do this?
One way you can help is by adopting this new Leatherback/Laud nest. Not only does it help us, but it is great fun for you. You will see pictures from last night through the babies being release into the sea, and will get updates along the way!
Or become a Sustaining Member which provides us with a reliable donation stream through the year for as little as $5/month.
Anything you can do to help us help the turtles is greatly appreciated.