Sanctuario de la tortuga la Escobilla
In the beginning, I thought my stay at the Escobilla Turtle Centre would be short. I witnessed to the release of baby turtles with other tourists, and I am quite happy with it.
After a few chats with the local guides, I learn that an arribada will probably happen in the following days. I then decide to wait for it, and I stay more than two weeks at the turtle centre to learn the work done by the guide and their struggle to save the turtles nesting on the beach of Escobilla.
The release of baby turtles is the main income for the centre. The tourists are invited on the beach, and the baby turtles are seen making their first steps toward the sea.
Exploring the beach at night
For several nights, I went out on the beach with a guide in order to observe turtles in the dark. Most of the time, nothing is seen. However, one night I was lucky enough to see a great quantity of nests hatching. For olive ridley turtles, the incubation period for the eggs varies from 46 to 62 days. Thus, it's hard to know when the hatching will occur even if we know the exact date of the egg-laying.
The small turtles emerge in mass from the nest and head toward the sea. Several won't make it to the sea; birds or dogs may catch them on the way.
Several times, I played a part in the 'rescue' of turtles. Indeed, after a solitary egg-laying, the chance of survival is relatively low. It's possible a dog will open the nest to feed. Otherwise, poachers, or hueveros in Spanish, will steal the eggs to sell or eat them. When the entire egg-laying is stolen, they may sell them for between $10 and $20 for the lot.
Turtle eggs poaching is not a very lucrative endeavour. Most of the hueveros are villagers simply trying to feed themselves or earning a few dollars. The guides know very well the methods used by these eggs thieves since most of them once were poachers as well.
There is no violence between hueveros, biologists, and guides on the Escobilla beach. Strangely, during my patrol, my guide explained that the first person who observes an egg-laying turtle is the one who can collect the eggs. In fact, guides or poachers roam the beach in order to find a turtle. When a guide finds one, the poacher will not interfere and the reverse is also true. One has to wait for the turtle to finish laying its eggs, and then collect the eggs. A curious situation, but at least, there is no violence.
During an arribada, it's impossible to collect all the eggs. Thus, biologists managing the beach, call the Mexican navy who will patrol during the few days of the arribada. The turtles can then lay their eggs in peace, protected from the poachers... However, animals and birds still can feast during these events.
Protecting Turtle Eggs
After collecting eggs during the night, the work isn't yet completed. They must be transferred to an enclosure and a proper nest must be dug. One must dig a hole with a depth of about 40 cm. The eggs are then put in it. The hole is then covered and the nest is identified with the turtle species, the date, the number of eggs, and the person that has done the job.
January 7, 2018
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea)
by Eradio and Jocelyn.
A poster against turtle eggs poaching. This one can be translated as follows:
You're swallowing lies.
Turtles eggs are not aphrodisiac.
It's weird that several rare animals end up being some sort of Viagra for impotent men.
Finally, the arribada has started
A sign that an arribada is imminent. Turtles are gathering in large quantity on the shores. Here, several turtle's head can be seen a few metres from the shoreline.
Up to now, I didn't say what an arribada is. You will know by looking at the photos, but an arribada is a massive arrival of turtles coming to lay their eggs on the beach. I had the chance to see an arribada, but it was not very massive. It was the last one of the season, and often it doesn't even occur.