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Turtle Soup

A short story by Tina Turtle

It's not easy being a turtle. If it wasn't for the volunteers (at right) coming from all over the world, we'd be history! Not only do we have to worry about human poachers, but there are dogs, vultures and other animals who raid our nesting areas. See the photos below.



Tina returning to the water after laying her eggs

Every year I return to the same beach, Playa Ixtapilla, in Michoacan, about an hour and a half south of Manzanillo. I fight through the waves to get to the beach to lay more than 100 eggs. Sometimes I can't get very far because the beach is eroded away, and I can't climb the steep wall of sand.




At other times there are poachers or animals waiting for me to finish my duties of motherhood. I've been lucky to survive the poachers, because they'd make soup out of me.

The animals, such as vultures and dogs, are always there, ready to steal my eggs. Sometimes they don't even wait until I finish.

 I try to dig a deep hole (at least 18 inches deep), but oftentimes I get interrupted.

Egg laying in the Colula sanctuary

Poachers know that fresh tracks indicate a nest
Turtle tracks on the beach at sunrise.

I come at night, usually between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m., but there have been many years that my cycle has been interrupted by people shining flashlights and spotlights (well-meaning environmentalists who are simply curious and want to watch), and motorized vehicles. Last time it was the Mexican Navy who was there to protect me and my eggs, but the military vehicle was so heavy it was crushing many nests of other mothers and scaring the wits out of me!

Erosion, a natural enemy

The sea exposes incubating eggs.


Vultures take advantage of Mother Nature's high waves

The vultures have a turtle
egg breakfast.

High waves make it easy for the vultures

Vultures were chased away from their breakfast by a pesky photographer, but they'll wait patiently for her to leave so that they can finish their tasty meal.

Wild dogs patroll the shoreline looking for eggs exposed by erosion
Feral dog rests after a satisfying turtle egg meal.

More than 1,000 nests have already been destroyed in Ixtlapilla

In the background, the sanctuary. Each stake has 100 eggs incubating below. In front of the protected area on the beach, the vultures have gone to work again and destroyed another nest.

We do not have enough dedicated and educated volunteers. The waves of turtles coming to the beach is scheduled to begin in September. It will last for through October. We need people to rescue eggs from the tides and rebury them. We need people to chase away the vultures and the dogs. We need help 24 hours a day, during this period and through mid-October, when the babies begin to hatch. Then we need help for the next few days making sure they get safely back to the ocean, and are not picked off by birds or other predators. For more information on the "Save the Turtles" program originating out of Manzanillo, see the left column of this article, and click on the headlines.

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