We were thrilled to encounter our fourth Leatherback (Laúd) nest of November last night. Our sixth of this season! These are huge numbers for us and very encouraging, especially since we did not have a single Leatherback (Laúd) nest last season.
Three of our Leatherback (Laúd) nests are available for adoption! Check out this little video preview of one of our mamas as a tear runs down her face. Please help us turn her tears into tears of joy.
On Saturday night, our volunteer team encountered (at least) the 3rd unique Leatherback mama, and 4th Leatherback nest of the season. Let me explain…the mama was not encountered at the 3rd nest we found, so we are unsure if the mama from our first nest returned, or if that nest was laid by a unique individual. Either way, this is so much better than last year where we found no Leatherback nests at all.
We tag the turtles we come in contact with, so we know we had not yet seen Saturday’s nesting female. This makes at least 3, maybe 4 Leatherbacks in our nesting area. Such great news.
Look how big she is in this photo with our volunteers!
The other great news is that this nest is up for adoption! So, if you thought about adopting last time but didn’t get around to it…you have another chance. This would make an excellent Christmas present, especially for any science or environmentally minded folks on your shopping list!
And the fun thing about this is that it is a gift that you can enjoy all over again when the hatchlings emerge in approximately 60 days.
Finally, this is a gift that helps us support these incredible creatures in their plight against extinction.
We rescued 317 nests containing 28,982 eggs. The reason we are so excited about this is….2 of these nests, containing 187 eggs were LEATHERBACK. The Pacific Leatherback population, our Leatherbacks, are most at risk for extinction of all sea turtle populations. Finding these 2 nests so early in the season has us beyond happy! Spoiler alert….we have already had one more in November that is possibly our 1st mama returning (seeking an adopter!). This species of Sea Turtle can nest 7 to 11 times in one season, 8 to 12 days apart.
Our little beach here is the talk of the turtle world! We are so very thankful to be part of this.
We encountered and tagged both nesting Leatherbacks, which is a great help to scientific community! We also tagged 47 Olive Ridley’s and saw 5 more that we had previously tagged. Four of these ladies were tagged this season, while one was tagged last year.
Now the other statistics…which are not as exciting….
We lost 47 nests and 6 nesting mama’s to human poachers. Losing the 6 adult females, as you know, is really troubling to us. And the increase in the occurrence of stolen turtles really has us concerned. 🙁
We lost 8 nests and 0 nesting mama’s to dogs this month.
While not losing any nesting females to dogs is very good news, the humans more than made up for it.
In other camp news, our work horse ATV has had more than the usual maintenance problems. Since we are doing 2 patrols each night, this isn’t totally unexpected, but these costly repairs during a season with activities limited by Covid is becoming a problem.
Early in the month this happened, yikes.
Then later in the month, one of the wheels was wobbly due to a broken Axle. Another unexpected expense.
We sure could use some help, with these expenses….hint, hint 😉
Best Picture of the month again goes to Felipe!
Damaris, Daniela, Luis, & Erika with Mama Leatherback
It might not be the clearest picture, but it is still my absolute favorite! At the far left is our founder Damaris Marin Smith greeting her first Leatherback turtle. She has been doing this since 2011, but has not (until now) had the opportunity to meet one in person. This nest was close to camp, so she was still on the beach when Damaris, with additional volunteers, arrived to help with the nest. The smile on her face says it all!
THIS is what makes everything we do worth it! Thank you for supporting our efforts.
We are so super excited to report that last night we had our SECOND Leatherback (Laúd) nest of this season!!! We had one last Thursday, and then again this Thursday!
Happiness is a Leatherback on our beach!
And guess what? Through our adoption program, you can adopt this nest and help enable us to continue our work of supporting and helping this very special sea turtle species.
With the incubation period of 60 days, these eggs should start hatching just as this year of 2020 is FINALLY ending. What better way to ring in the new year than celebrating new life with your adopted Leatherback babies?!?!?!
This would also make an awesome Christmas present 😉
After having exactly ZERO Leatherback nests last year, it is beyond exciting to have our second nest already, so close to the beginning of their nesting season. This species is endangered, so these nests are very important. We are hopeful that this is a the beginning a busy Leatherback season!
Fun Fact. Do you know what the Leatherback’s favorite food is?
So when you are able to swim in the ocean without getting stung, you can thank our Leatherback friends. Without them, the jellyfish population would surely increase. Weighing in between 550 and 2,000 pounds, you can imagine they eat A LOT!
Won’t you please think about adopting this nest of very special eggs? It helps us, and we promise it will be such a fun way to welcome the new year!
Thank you for your continued support. We surely could not do this without you!
September gave us great skies and moons, with planets and meteor showers visible!
We can hardly believe it is October already.
What that means to us is that we are full throttle, in the busiest part of the nesting season! And we watch the numbers go up and up! We are now seeing some nights with more than 20 patrol entries (this includes nests rescued, poached and everything in between).
So our numbers for September were very exciting!
We rescued 241 nests containing 22,216 eggs. These are all happily incubating in our hatchery as I type. Happy, happy, joy, joy!! Nine of these nests were adopted. On our busiest night, 15 nests were rescued.
We tagged 33 females and greeted one ‘return customer’ who was tagged LAST SEASON!
But, we lost 49 nests to human poachers during September, and 5 to dogs.
We also lost 2 nesting females to human poachers and had 2 attacked by dogs. One of these was dead when we found her, but in the other case our patrol volunteers came upon the attack and chased the dogs away. The injured female made her way back to the sea and we hope against hope that she heals and survives. Pictures below at the very bottom of this post…they are graphic, so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see.
There are the culprits…2 have been on this beach for years without a problem. Then a new dog showed up, and sadly taught them a new trick.
In addition, 33 females came on the beach but did not lay eggs. We call this a ‘false crawl’. Honesty here, I call it a ‘Walk About’. Sometimes they are just not ready, but sometimes something on the beach (people, dogs, debris blocking their way, bright lights in the beachfront houses) makes them return to the sea without nesting.
We finished filling our Corral #1 (376 spaces) this month and almost filled up Corral #2 (168 spaces).
So that is the story for September, 2020.
New to the monthly post is ‘Best Picture’. The award this month goes to Felipe.
We are making some changes to patrol routines this month, maybe we can disrupt the poachers’ routines and have less than 49 nests lost in October. For obvious reasons, I’ll not share the details. Tune in next month to see if we were successful 🙂
Welcome new volunteers Luis & Gissel! It is great to have you on our team.
What else did we do this month? Well, we had some work done on the ATV. When there is a lot of debris on the beach, flat tires are hard to avoid. We replaced 2 tires this month, along with a battery. Maintenance costs are a constant here at Ayotlcalli!
So, of course here comes the ‘How you can help’ part of the post! Buttons below you will take you to different ways to donate.
If you happen to live on our beach and are reading this, there are a couple of other things you can do:
Replace any bright lights that shine on the beach with amber or red bulbs. Sea turtles find their way to the sea following the bright moonlight reflecting on the waves, so bright porch lights get them very confused. This causes them to be on the (dangerous) beach longer than necessary.
Be vigilant. If you see a turtle, call or WhatsApp us. Our volunteers will be on a red or white ATV with a cooler and tool box visible. If we are not present, please call us at 281 235-8974.
As always, thank you and muchisimas gracias for your support!
We have just wrapped up our first full month of the season, and it has been quite an adventure!
In the month of August, we rescued 204 nests containing 19,238 eggs. These were all relocated to our hatchery and will be released to the sea when they hatch after about 45 days of incubation!
We lost 27 nests and 4 nesting turtles to human poachers. A story follows about one we almost lost, but with the help of our caring neighbors and our wonderful volunteers, made it back to the sea safely!
It was a ‘good’ month as far as dogs are concerned, we lost just 3 nests and 0 nesting turtles to our canine poachers.
It was an even better month for tagging turtles. Our team of volunteers tagged 30 nesting females, which is more than ever! This is surely due to the fact that we are patrolling twice every night so are spending more time monitoring the beach.
And, only one of our July nests hatched so far. It had a 91% hatch rate, which we are extremely happy about! The firsts nests of the season often don’t do this well, so this is very good news. Smiles all around.
So those are the numbers for the month. But don’t go yet, we have more to share!
We always have non-turtle encounters to report, and here is one of our favorites. They are so cute when they’re babies…but we steer clear of mama and papa.
We also have some great stories this month about our neighbors and friends in the community!
A neighbor notified us that during the bad storms, a turtle was high on his property and needed help back to the sea. She was confused and tired, so he was happy to help her. He also noticed that she was tagged and took note of her tag #. She was a female we tagged last year! How cool is that?
Another night, we had several nests and 2 turtles poached, or stolen, from the beach. This is upsetting to us, especially the poached turtle, since only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood. To beat such great odds, only to be snatched off the beach when nesting… It makes us sad, and angry too.
But one of these girls had luck on her side! In the morning, we received a call that someone was reporting a sea turtle in the brush by the road. It was, indeed one our girls! She was still tied up in the rope they used to drag her from the beach. She was weak, but once the waves hit her, she swam off. Just near her was a bucket with 2 nests of poached eggs, which are safe now in our hatchery!
Here she is going home. A happy ending…YAY!
She’s almost home!
And there she goes!!!!
We had some heavy rains and storms this month, which caused the lagoons to open up. When this happens tons (literally) of organic matter and trash (much of it plastic bottles) is washed into the sea and onto the beach. Many in our beach community heeded the call for help! They came and picked up trash, sent workers to help. We even had some help from a backhoe! So much recyclable plastic was collected that the municipal truck has been out twice and there is still more.
It is often said that it takes a village, and it truly does. We have such great friends and neighbors in our ‘village’ helping us help the sea turtles.
Even if you are far away, you can still help us out! Won’t you consider helping our efforts with a donation, perhaps?
Or, you could start your Christmas shopping early by adopting a nest! It is simple, it is safe, and you don’t even need to leave home to do it.
As always, thank you so very much for reading and for your support! Stay safe, stay healthy and most importantly…Stay Happy!!
Many of you have seen some of these magnificent musicians perform live, back in the Normal World days, so you know what I mean when I say this is a Do Not Miss event!
We have a special treat for you, our supporters on August 29 at 7 pm CST. A LIVE concert via Facebook Private Group.
The concert (loosely translated to English from Spanish) is called
A SONG FROM THE HEART….TO THE SHELL
These musicians, our friends from Toluca, have so many times sung to us from their hearts! And, wow, have we enjoyed it.
We are extremely excited to have this honor, and even more excited to be able to share it with you!
Won’t you please join us in welcoming these talented artists to our ‘screens’. The performers are once again generously donating their time to our cause so all proceeds will go directly to supporting the efforts of Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli.
Tickets can be purchased here. There is not a set ticket price, we are just asking for a donation, however small (or big).
Now that July has ended, we thought we would share our activities with you. We began our patrols early in the morning of July 15th and have been running 2 shifts each night; one at midnight and one at 5am. This way we are sure not to miss anything! Our hope is that this will keep poachers, human and canine, at bay.
We had some beautiful nights and mornings patrolling the beach. A beautiful moon has been our guide for some nights. We’ve had some storms and rain too, which keep things interesting!
Our Guiding Light
Our Beach Hot Rod
And so, after a half month of patrols we have relocated 36 nests for a total of 3,402 eggs. These are all incubating safely in our hatchery.
We have lost 5 nests to human poachers and 1 to dogs.
10 times a turtle has come up on to the beach and decided not to lay her eggs. Some we believe are due to harassment by beach dogs, others due to the beach itself. We have had some sand cliffs by the water’s edge due to erosion that the turtles are not able to climb. Sometimes they go ahead and lay their eggs at the bottom, but sometimes they go back to the sea and (we hope) come up in a different place.
We have tagged 9 turtles, one of whom we saw again 14 days later. Our Olive Ridleys will nest 3 times in one season about two weeks apart each time. We are always so excited when we see a return customer!
Well, it certainly has been a while since our last blog. What a long strange trip it’s been!
And still is…
But our Mama tortugas don’t know anything about what is going on here on solid land. They have been swimming, feeding, and mating in preparation for the nesting season here on our beautiful beach.
Nature doesn’t wait, and we expect that the poachers won’t either! We also have many more stray dogs on the beach now, so are concerned about both the nesting turtles and the nests. It is time to start!
To that end, we are extremely excited about the start of our nightly patrols last night! Our volunteer team found 3 nests, all species Olive Ridley (Golfina). They rescued a total of 276 eggs, which were relocated safely into our corral. And the most exciting news, especially for new volunteers Estafania & Daniela, was that they also encountered a nesting mama at the last nest found!
These patrols will continue till the ladies stop nesting some time next spring. March, April, or possibly even May. If you have been on our beach in the middle of the night, then you understand why we are so excited getting started. If you haven’t been, try it out!
LOTS of work has gone into preparing for this, maintenance on the ATV’s and rebuilding the hatchery corral are the two biggest items. There are also lots of maybe less exciting stuff like paperwork and meetings.
Here are some pictures of our volunteers building the first corral for this season.
As you may know, like everyone else, our season ended quite abruptly last spring just before one of our busiest times, which is Semana Santa (Easter week). And like everyone else, there was lost income and belt tightening to go along with that.
Normally, we have international volunteers that come for weeks or months during the nesting season to help us out. Some stay in our volunteer cabin, while some are ex-pats that stay on their own in the area. This year, we are starting out with local and full-time resident ex-pat volunteers. Only time will tell when/if we will be able to safely accept other volunteers.
In addition to the shortage of volunteers, we are trying to figure out public releases (to have, or not have…if we have them, how to do so safely). We have time since it will be almost 2 months before we have hatchlings, but the logistics need to be worked out. Since the releases happen on a public beach, crowd control will be an issue. More to come on that as we see what the future holds.
But we are up to the challenge and are committed to continuing our work of helping our local sea turtle population!
We know times are tough and funds are short, but if you are able, won’t you consider a donation to support this important work? Or maybe adopting a nest?
Thank you so much for reading, and welcome to our 2020-2021 season. It feels wonderful to be doing something good in this crazy time!
We are so super excited about this coming weekend!!! We have, not one, but two, awesome LIVE MUSIC nights to benefit our Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli’s Summer Camp for children in our local communities!
We hope you will come join us for one or both nights!
About the Summer Camp
The camp is a fun and educational 2 weeks in July. 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!
Last year we had swimming lessons and kayaking on the lagoon. We also had some fun field trips, check out our blog to see more!