Dier- en natuurbehoud project zeeschildpadden & kustgebied in Mexico
Conservation in Mexico – Monthly Update July – August 2013
July and August are normally the two months where there is a dramatic peak in the numbers of turtles laying eggs. However, this season the dramatic increase we expected was delayed until much later with our busiest night being 20 August where we managed to find and relocate 82 nests in a single night. This was a grand total of 7,910 eggs collected and protected in the space of 12 hours. Since that night the number of turtles has continued to stay at a relatively high level.
Unfortunately the weather at this time of year has been affecting the erosion of the beach more than normal. As a result we have had to move the hatchery further inland to stop it washing into the Pacific Ocean! All our volunteers have been fantastic helping to move posts, fences, shade cloths, sieve-palm fronds and grass roots to make the move as smooth as possible.
The number of people on patrol each night has increased to 8 volunteers, because of the increase in illogical turtle activity. This extra effort has been rewarded as we lost just four half nests to racoons and 40 to poachers. This is excellent when compared to a total of 913 nests protected by the end of August.
Lagoon Bird Biodiversity Surveys
With the increase of volunteers coming through the camp these summer months we have been able to do up to four surveys a week on the lagoon. We have been using both our own paddle boat and a motor boat driven by one of the locals who helps protect the lagoon from the damaging effects of fishing and tourism.
July saw a mass migration of Groove-billed Ani’s (Crotphaga sulcirostis) arrive in the area. At first we spotted just one but during the last two months there were many more to be found at all our different survey sights on the lagoon. One of our most beautiful survey areas, called El Caiman, consistently gives us surveys with 20 or more species of birds with the Neotropical Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) being the most abundant bird with numbers of 250 individuals regularly recorded. There were also three different species of egret and five different species of heron that nest here and so a great number of juveniles and chicks were sighted in the last few months.
Our strong partnership with the local crocodile farm continues. With our weekly trips encompassing everything from cleaning out croc pens, to sexing some of the younger individuals for separation into mating pairs and painting the pens and fences along the lagoon walkway. As a tourist attraction, intended to educate the local population, it is very important that the whole area is kept neat and tidy, and we are an important part of that team.
Our bird species survey around the adjoining lagoon continues. Each time there is a trip to the lagoon we carry out a survey and we have seen the arrival of the Groove-billed Ani’s here also. We are regularly spotting the Russet-crowned Motmot (Momotus mexicanus), the Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana), and Yellow-winged Caciques (Cacicus melanicterus). Woodpeckers are heard most surveys too but we are not always able to get a sighting of them! We have now positively identified 68 different species of birds in this small area, almost all of which have been seen on a regular basis. Also when cleaning out certain areas of the farm we have spotted several different species of snake, large green iguanas shedding their skins and a salamander lizard.
Some of our luckier volunteers, depending on your opinion of raw meat, have been able to feed the crocodiles!
Our camp maintenance these past two months has mostly been dedicated to relocating the hatchery to avoid it being washed away. We have had to re-implement the North hatchery to accommodate the influx of nests we are currently getting. In addition to this, we have repaired the roofs of the turtle pools which are now ready for use if we find an injured turtle that needs to be rehabilitated or quarantined.
Our main camp issue has been the removal of the “Palapa” (shelter built from palm tree fronds) that was used for R&R in break time. Unfortunately, this entailed about a month balancing on the edge of a cliff of sand slowly eroding into the ocean. However, after much hard work we had the old structure down and everyone happily relocated to the new rest area next to the kitchen.
Turtle Research Camp
Over the last two months with all our extra volunteers around camp we have been visiting another turtle camp once a week. This camp is different from our own in that they keep turtles captive so that research can be carried out on individual animals. Our involvement there included helping to bury their nests collected from the night before, clean out all the turtle pools and the turtles themselves (nothing quite like scrubbing a fully grown turtle clean with a toothbrush!). We also helped with the measuring of the juveniles so that their diet could be constantly monitored and updated. This was a great opportunity for our volunteers to see how things are run at a different turtle institution and how keeping captive turtles can increase our understanding of these rare and magnificent animals.
As you can see there has been a lot of exciting happenings here in Mexico and I look forward to bringing you more news soon.
Conservation Manager, Mexico