This article is from the February 1997 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Turtles by the Thousands

by Susan Kaye

Susan Kaye is a noted travel writer who hails from Aspen, Colorado.

Like nearly all residents and visitors to the Pacific resort of Ixtapa, Rene Hersperger, General Manager of the Continental Plaza, had never seen a sea turtle. But this fall, some ten thousand turtle hatchlings spent the first few weeks of their lives paddling in the transparent waters of a Continental Plaza swimming pool.

They're part of an ecological success story that has gained momentum in Ixtapa since 1990. That's the year the Mexican government announced support of efforts to save the dwindling numbers of sea turtles.

Support was one thing: funding was another. Local marine biologist Juan Barnard, who owns the Zihuatanejo Scuba Center, and colleague Gustavo Adolfo began working to rescue and hatch turtle eggs in 1994. Under their supervision, volunteer Antonio Nieto Garcia collected l,000 eggs during the August to November season.

In 1995, Barnard and Adolfo convinced several Ixtapa hotels to join the project. That year, 5,000 eggs were collected.

Last year, with six participating hotels--Pacifica, Presidente, Doubletree, Continental Plaza, Marina Real, and Punta Ixtapa--over 20,000 eggs were collected in August alone.

The hotels fence off a portion of their beachfront for the project. A foot of warm sand covers the eggs, which are buried 50 to a hole for 45 days. After hatching, they are guarded in tubs or, as at the Continental Plaza, in swimming pools. Some hotels, such as the Presidente, liquify surplus fish for the hatchlings. After three to four months, the turtles' shells have hardened sufficiently to offer some protection against predators. The turtles are released: in eight years, when they're old enough to breed, they'll be returning to these same beaches to continue the cycle.

Since turtles lay 80-120 eggs, this cooperative project has the potential of significantly impacting the sea turtle population.

For more information, contact Gustavo Adolfo at his office: 011-52-755-4-3308 or Juan Barnard by fax: 011-52-755-4-2147.