The Riviera Maya’s sea turtles are endangered and need to be protected by sea turtle conservancy projects.


SEA TURTLES AKUMAL

Adult Sea Turle in Sian Ka'an


Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Akumal and all the Riviera Maya are all home to sea turtles. Their nesting and feeding areas are all along the coast.

 

If you go snorkeling along the reef, you will be able to swim together with turtles in Akumal and a few other places. At night, however, local beaches become their nesting grounds, and this is where many of them perish because of natural causes or destructive human behavior, and sea turtle conservancy becomes especially important.

 

Keep in mind that the Riviera Maya has four different endangered sea turtle species, and they all play key roles in a local ecosystem, which is also critical to humans. For example, green turtles (Chelonia Mydas) and loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta) return every year to lay their eggs as they have for thousands of years. Extinction of sea turtles could result in the endangerment or disappearance of many other marine species.

 

 

LIFE OF A SEA TURTLE

Sea turtle males, after taking to the water the first time, do not return to the shore. During the first five years juvenile turtles drift in ocean streams, feeding on plankton, after which they move to coastal feeding areas for the rest of their lives.

SEA TURTLES MEXICO

Juvenile sea turtles


When sea turtles are several decades old, the females get really busy: they rotate between mating in the water with the males and laying eggs on land, returning exactly to their own birth area, where they hatched. The cycle repeats itself every two to three years.

Mating occurs next to nesting beaches, where male and female turtles meet from late March to early June for the ceremony of flirtation through nuzzling and biting. They may travel 2,000 kilometers to arrive to the mating place. The nesting season happens between May and August, and female sea turtles keep returning to the beach to lay three to five clutches of 40-120 eggs. Only one egg from the nest will live to be an adult turtle.

Sadly, due to the pollution of water and nesting beaches, sea turtle lifespan has shortened to about 47 – 67 years, while earlier sea turtles used to live and to continue their nesting cycle until 80 years old.

 

 

NESTING

When a female sea turtle comes to the beach in Akumal or Sian Ka’an or any other place along the Riviera Maya at night to find a suitable place to create a nest, she chooses very carefully, because the nest will determine whether her eggs will survive or not. A nest placed further inland will make it more dangerous for the hatchlings to reach the sea. A nest close to the sea can loose its eggs because of water proximity.

SEA TURTLE CONSERVANCY

Baby sea turtle


The mother turtle digs a pit and deposits her eggs. She then returns to the sea, waiting for them to hatch. It is very important to leave the nest in peace and quiet so that the baby turtles can develop.

Incubation takes about two months, and turtle gender depends on temperature of the sand. 32C results in female hatchlings, and cooler incubating temperatures of 28C result in males. The rising temperatures of the planet, however, threaten to hatch too many females.

When the hatchlings finally tear their shells apart, usually at night to avoid predators, they start traveling towards the water, guided by the reflection of the moon and stars. Their brains’ compound, magnetite, allows them to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and to navigate. Once in the ocean, if they safely made it, they start swimming, and can swim for about 20 hours.

 

DANGERS

Even though there are many predators of sea turtles in nature, such as jaguars, raccoons, foxes, seagulls, deadly mosquitos and others, one of the worst dangers has become the presence of humans.

SEA TURTLES MEXICO

Sea turtle hatchlings on their journey towards the sea


The Riviera Maya beaches, crowded with human presence and flashlights of photo cameras, as well as light pollution, cause a lot of stress to sea turtles and may be blinding to the just-hatched babies. Therefore, sea turtle friendly beaches have restrictions that prevent using lights on the beach, and use red or amber LED lights that are invisible to sea turtles.

Other major threats to sea turtles come from the black market trade of their eggs and meat, and fishermen’s nets in the sea.

 

 

SEA TURTLE CONSERVANCY

The Riviera Maya sea turtle conservancy projects, increasing every year, are trying to protect the natural nesting habitats of turtles. The nests are protected by barriers, and night guards protect nesting sea turtles from people. Local residents have agreed to close restaurants, shops and bars before 11 PM, and local fishermen respect the areas of feeding sea turtles.

As a result, the local sea turtle population is starting to increase again.

We hope that you will help us with your cooperation, especially during the turtle nesting season between May and August! Let’s enjoy adult sea turtles in the sea, and allow them to hatch in peace.

 

BASIC RULES DURING TURTLE NESTING SEASON:

 

* DON’T TAKE THE PICTURES WITH THE FLASH

* NO BRIGHT LIGHTS (NO FLASHLIGHTS, PORCH LIGHTS OR CAMERA FLASHES)

* DO NOT MAKE LOUD NOISES OR ALLOW DOGS TO RUN ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT

* NEVER TOUCH TURTLES, AS THEY MIGHT BECOME DISORIENTED AND SCARED

* DON’T COME CLOSER THAN 10 METERS (32 FEET)

 

Let’s be respectful of the natural inhabitants of this paradise we are sharing with them. Perhaps one day we will be able to remove the “endangered” label from these beautiful creatures.

 

What else is amazing about the Riviera Maya? Read about hidden attractions of Tulum!

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