Baby turtles on the loose!

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One of the coolest things we did in Cabo was visit Tortugueros Las Playitas to participate in a turtle hatchling release.

This amazing organization is helping the sea turtle population recover from the effects of development in southern Baja. They maintain a greenhouse which stabilizes sand temperatures and creates an ideal nest habitat for turtle eggs. The greenhouse maximizes hatch rates and balances gender ratios. Between mid-November and February each year, the organization releases the baby turtles that hatched that day into the ocean at sunset.

The first day we visited there were no turtle hatchlings. I guess they weren’t on our vacation schedule. We had such a nice dinner in Todos Santos that night that we decided to visit again on New Year’s Eve, figuring that if nothing else, we’d have another nice dinner.

This time we were in luck! The little turtles – about 100 in all – were so cute as they flapped their way down the sand into the ocean. The crowd groaned as the baby turtles got tumbled in the pounding surf and washed back up the beach, only to have to start their trek to the water all over again. And volunteers flung sand at gulls and frigate birds who thought we were serving up an all-you-can-eat buffet.

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These little turtles are the epitome of vulnerability. Before they grow up, they’ll have to dodge predators who view them as a tasty bite-sized snack. If they make it to adulthood, they will have to dodge humans who want to kill them for their meat, eggs, and shells. They’ll have to avoid longhaul lines and try to distinguish between plastic bags and jellyfish. The former being deadly if they eat it. The 1 in 1,000 that survive to breed will return to the beach where they were born and hope that it’s quiet, dark and undeveloped.

I think this organization is doing a pretty darn good job at helping the turtles on a very shoe-string budget. If you’re so inclined, you can adopt a nest for $40 and help give these guys a good start in life.

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