Dier- en natuurbehoud project zeeschildpadden & kustgebied in Mexico
Conservation in Mexico - Monthly Update - July - August 2014
The high season for the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) laying their nests is truly upon us. In the first six months of the year, we managed to gather 228 nests but now, only two months into the high season, we have gathered 1,117 nests and regularly gather 30 to 40 nests per night. Our highest recorded amount this year was a night only a week ago when we collected 90 nests from out patch of beach. This equates to 8,293 eggs protected in a single night.
We have had so many nests to protect that we have had to extend our hatchery and now have a south and north hatchery. We will also need to start work on another area as, at the rate we are progressing, we will need even more space.
We have also been given 12 nests by the police to protect as these were confiscated from poachers on a beach about 30km north from us. This is great news as it shows that the police are really cracking down on the poaching problem and using us as support when they have nests that need to be protected.
Lagoon bird biodiversity study
Over the past couple of months, we have visited all but one of our bird watching locations on the Chupadero Laguna. The only site where we have been unable to go has unfortunately become inaccessible due to the increased amount of lily pads and weed growth in that area. However, there have been successful bird sightings at all of the other nine sites and we are seeing many adults in their full mating plumage, as well as greater numbers of chicks and juvenile birds leaving the safety of their nests.
The purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) and northern jacana (Jacana spinosa) are making a big appearance with their young chicks coming out to feed on the lily pads and proving that adorable, fluffy chicks can make a surprising amount of noise!
Crocodile repopulation project
Our first batch of American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) eggs have hatched, which means we now have 25 little hatchlings to rear for a year before releasing them into two nearby lagoons. Our aim is to start increasing the populations of native crocodiles in those areas so this is great news.
This is a very long term project to slowly raise and release native crocodiles to ensure a healthy population in Colima’s lagoons. We are now waiting for another nest to hatch to see if we will have additional crocodiles to release in approximately a year.
The bird species list is coming along nicely and we are seeing many species return to the area including the black-bellied whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis), the little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) and the warbling vireo (Vireo gilvus). However, our most exciting sighting over the last two months was the northern potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis). This is a bird that is active in the dark and camouflages itself in the daylight making it very difficult to spot. They hide by sitting upright on a dead branch and their plumage blends so well with the branch that it seems to be just an extension of the branch. It is an example of nature’s work at its finest!
Motion sensor camera traps
Over the past couple of months, we have started to move all eight of our camera traps deeper into the mangrove system. As a result, we now have photos of the white-nosed coati (Nasua narica) and we were even lucky enough to see three juveniles playing in the trees last week when we were changing the memory cards in the traps. However, they were quick to move to a more private location when they noticed five humans watching them!
We have also been able to see quite a few species of bird, including the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) strutting past the camera without a care in the world. With a bit of luck, we will see lots of photos over the next while of parents with their young.
Mangrove reforestation project
We have recently started a mangrove reforestation project at the camp. This means that we have spent the last two months building a greenhouse where we can nurture mangrove saplings and then replant them in areas that have been destroyed (both by humans and natural causes). The greenhouse is now finished so we have started to venture into areas of the lagoon where there is thick growth from which we can rescue saplings that would otherwise not survive (due to lack of sunlight and space).
There are four species of mangrove in the Chupadero Laguna area: the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and the buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erectus). We have only collected the red and white mangrove saplings so far. However, we aim to eventually collect seedlings and saplings from all four species to ensure that our mangrove system is well-balanced. Once the plants have grown to a more stable size, we will spend a few days transferring them to the mangroves.
Beach clean-ups and camp work
Our weekly beach clean-ups continue and we now have a pen full of plastic bottles to recycle. Not to mention, all the non-recyclable rubbish that we have collected as well. As I tell all our volunteers, every tiny piece of litter removed from the natural environment could mean saving the life of an animal. Everyone, therefore, joins in and is very vigilant about cleaning our patch of beach.
Our camp work has focused mainly on painting white sticks to mark each nest. As we are using about 40 sticks each morning, we need to prepare a lot beforehand.
As is evident, we are very busy with our turtle laying season, which is progressing very well so far and we hope to have collected 2,000 nest by the end of the year. We are also enjoying the challenge of our new projects and are happy with our results thus far. I hope many volunteers will join us at the conservation project in Mexico to help with our work.
Conservation Manager, Mexico