One of the many fortunate aspects about living on the beach in Mazatlán is that often, whether we’re walking the beach or the malecón, or sitting on the beach eating lunch or dinner, a marine turtle may suddenly crawl up to shore to lay her eggs. It is always cause for joy. It is such a gorgeous miracle to witness, and one we can easily take for granted.
The season starts in September each year, and yesterday I saw my third sea turtle so far this year. The turtle is usually fairly strong as she crawls up onto the beach. She is obviously made for the water, and struggles in the sand, but she crawls up to well above the high-tide line. She settles on a nesting spot, and then begins to dig a hole in the sand.
The turtle then buries her backside in the sand, above the hole, and lays her eggs. They lay a LOT of eggs at once. After she lays her eggs, the turtle usually rests for a few moments, but she is also usually very eager to get herself back into the ocean, where she is more mobile and less at risk of harm. It is so very heart wrenching to watch the mother sea turtle make her way back over the sand and into the ocean. She has no energy left, she is so very tired, and she just struggles something awful. Most people who watch tend to start cheering her on from a distance. It’s a nice community-building event.
Here is a photo taken from our terrace of a turtle’s tracks, in and out, to lay her eggs. You can see the spot in the sand where she laid her eggs. This photo was taken after the Aquarium official had already removed the eggs for safe-keeping.
Sea turtle eggs unfortunately fetch a high price on the black market. I think people eat them as an aphrodisiac. Some people also kill the endangered turtles; "caguama" is a beloved, though black market, dish for many Mazatlecos, sadly. People use turtle hide to make things, and they use the oils in skin lotions and creams. Years ago I remember seeing a lot of turtle lotions and items for sale in the beach areas of Mexico. Fortunately these days we see a lot less.
I am no naturalist, but in doing some research on the internet, it seems we have three primary species that nest here on the east coast of the Sea of Cortés, Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbills, and Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles: http://www.greenpacks.org/2008/08/25/sea-turtles-endangered-marine-life
The sea turtles are endangered:
There are signs everywhere on the beach that if you see a turtle, please call the police or the aquarium immediately, as they will come to keep the people away (so that the turtle can lay her eggs in peace), and they will make sure no one steals the eggs.
Despite the best efforts of most people, who keep a respectful distance away, there seem to be plenty of idiots who try to “help” the turtle by getting in her face and crowding her. Just what any birthing mother wants, right? Watch this YouTube for an example of some people’s heartbreaking behavior:
The turtle eggs are taken to one of three local spots that I know of for hatching, the Mazatlan Aquarium (click on Mazatlan on the map): http://www.grupotortuguero.org/imap.php?l=1
Down south to Estrella del Mar (a golf resort that has a sea turtle hatching facility), and up north in Marmol. They regularly hold baby sea turtle “release” events, where the babies are released into the ocean. Danny’s been fortunate enough to release baby turtles several times, including with the Scouts. Each year his troop hikes north on the beach for 6-7 hours or so, releases baby turtles, then camps overnight and celebrates with a huge bonfire on the beach. Below are some photos:
And there is a YouTube video of a baby turtle’s quest for the open waters:
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
- Season of the curved tides (January-February): The ocean waves come in with scalloped edges, leaving the sand on the beach with ripples. It's beautiful! (See the photo above for an idea.)
- La temporada de la neblina, Fog season (February or anytime as late as May): Starting around Carnavál and continuing for a few weeks, the cold ocean air meets the warm land and....our building disappears, as does Ice Box Hill and many other landmarks, for a good portion of the morning.
- La temporada de los Candidatas, the season of the PARADES!!! (May): Two kinds of candidates: political and royal. The royals are the fun ones—girls (and sometimes boys) from all over the metro area, who want to be queen or king of their school. They walk the malecón, the plazuela, and the Golden Zone collecting donations, usually accompanied by their court if they're teenagers, and by their families if they're primary school kids. When the little girls wear nice dresses, boy then am I a supporter of their cause! Parades of course accompany the campaigns of both kinds of candidates. Parades include multiple live bands (not marching but riding), cool cars, loads of balloons, horn honking, and sometimes fireworks. The political campaigns include the standard posters, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc., and their parades, unfortunately, include the loudspeaker campaign speeches.
- Season of the panzas--or panzones! (July-October): If you are walking the malecon, walking to the market, or basically just standing outside, beware of the bare bellies! Men of all shapes and sizes seem to quite enjoy the air conditioning they achieve by rolling up their shirts and exposing their mid-sections. Unfortunately, six pack abs are few and far between! This is also the season to carry a wash cloth or small towel--sweat rag season. A handkerchief will NOT be sufficient. :)
- Septi-Hambre, Hungry September: The month when those who serve the tourist trade complain because there are neither national nor international tourists around.
- La temporada de Venezia, The season of Venice (August and September): This is when you need a gondola to get your son to school, or to go grocery shopping. MUST wear waterproof shoes and shorts, as streets are flooded at least 1/2 meter deep and more in places.
- Necklace on the Bay (September or October through April or so): Open season on shrimp! US$4/kilo and even cheaper, higher for the really giant ones. You can get shrimp any time of year, but the legal shrimping season is now, so you can get fresh not frozen shrimp now. Mmmm. Our fleet is the biggest in Latin America. Opening day of the "veda" is one of my favorites. The shrimp boats all leave port, and in the darkness of night you see the lighted boats forming a beautiful necklace around the bay. Very difficult to capture on film, but incredibly beautiful and, from our experience, it only happens once a year. Don't miss it! Opening day of the season....