July is quiet in Puerto Vallarta. The summer marks the unofficial end of the “tourist” season and the green season begins. The town seems to take a breath. For some, this is perfect time to visit, for others they return (or stay) north of the border and for some small reptiles well they starting coming in with the waves.
Yes, the summer marks the beginning turtle nesting season on the beaches of Banderas Bay. Many types arrive, but the most common to the area are the Olive Ridley turtles or the “Golfina” (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtle. Actually, these leatherback beauties can come multiple times in the season, each time laying over 100 eggs on the beaches.
Survival numbers remain unknown and unfortunately are estimated rather low. For each 1,000 born less than 10 reach an adulthood of eight years. Not good odds. Couple that with increased development and increased poaching activities (the eggs are believed to be aphrodisiacs) and the odds decrease. But hope exists.
The Sociedad Ecologica de Occidente works to conserve the turtle nesting grounds. They perform nighttime patrols to protect the turtles, gather the eggs, and then they work with prominent hotels and condominiums to provide safe nesting sites called hatcheries. Then after the 45 day incubation period, the eggs hatch, and the turtles are ready for releasing back to the sea. This is a process that always looks for volunteers, and as I learned setting a turtle free is an event one cherishes for a lifetime.
So as the season progresses, I’ve lined up an interview with CNN nominated hero, Oscar Aranda, Biologist and the Director and Founder of Sociedad Ecologica de Occidente. He works to save these fascinating creatures and if you have any questions about the program, the turtles, or how to help, please leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to ask him.
Photos by Craig Zabransky and the VallartaNature.org