Cozumel Marine Turtle Rescue Program

Unlike a chicken egg embryo a turtle embryo attaches itself to the egg shell and breathes directly through the porous shell membrane. That is why one of the most important things to the little critter’s life is sand. What? Yep, you heard that correct, the properties of the sand, that is the color, composition, compaction and size of the sand granule determines how moist the nest will be over time and that controls the temperature, humidity, salinity and gas exchange necessary for the turtle embryo to develop. Another important consideration is the size of the sand granule. Large sand granules allow the embryo to breathe, taking in oxygen and letting out carbon dioxide. Fine white powder sand, like what you find on a tourist beach, does not provide the right properties for the embryo to survive. That is why the beaches on the windward side of Cozumel are perfect for turtle nests and that is why Mary and I are helping to dig up turtle nests on this evening in September.

We rode to the turtle beach with Mike and Jeanie Buscher. They are with Blue Angel Resort and are passionate about protecting turtles and insuring the survival of turtle hatchings. Guests at Blue Angel Resort are encouraged to go with them to assist the locals in their conservation efforts.

Mary's nest.  She is excited.
Working under the direction of a biologist and local Cozumel volunteers Mary and I were assigned to dig up nests that had already hatched to see if we could find and rescue any late hatchlings. The nests are about three feet deep and digging them is hard work. You try to dig straight down but the sand keeps collapsing so you widen it out and start all over again.

Jeanie and Mary starting a dig
 While digging my nest I found what I thought at first to be pieces of wood. Carefully digging through the sand I discovered that it was hatchlings. Once you pull one of the little fellows out they become very active. I found 13 hatchlings in this hole, but, had to continue digging because my work was only half done. You have to dig the full meter, about 3 feet down, to find the eggs. Once you get to the eggs you have to bring them out and count them for the biologist. My nest had 119 hatched eggs in it which, I understand, is about normal.

The hatchlings are crated and will be released at dusk

A "turtle run" to the ocean is marked and cleared

At the right time the turtle hatchlings are brought down to the "turtle path"

Waiting for just the right time!
Once released they race to the ocean as fast as they can.

If they fall over they fin until they right themselves.

Just about made it over.
Yeah!  Made it to the water safely.

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