A Mexican turtle release

A Mexican turtle release

As the sun begins to descend on the Mexican night, the shrieks of eager children fill the salty air. We start our journey up the almost secluded beach to the release section of the shoreline. The hushing of parents trying to control their over-excited children is all we can hear as we approach the spot.

I remove my flip-flops, allowing the waves to lap over my sunburnt toes as I watch the sun get closer to the sea.

A hippy like male approaches the groups of tourists and rounds us up like a heard of sheep, he escorts us towards the hill, and commences his talk about the turtles, first in Spanish and then English. “No flash and no touching” he repeats. This man’s humanitarian love for these creatures is evident as he carefully places the tray of turtles on the sand. These miniature animals look somewhat similar to a child’s wind-up toy, as they clamber over each other. The children watch in amazement and begin to edge closer to the edge of the tray. This protection program has meant that these turtles have been sheltered from the harshness of nature, the cruelty of predators and the foolishness of man. After his talk is over, we head back over towards the sea and he draws a line in the sand; we must not cross the line.

The children get as close as they can to the line and balance as though they are on the edge of a cliff. One by one the turtles are settled to the ground to begin their journey to the sea. Instinct takes over as they crawl towards the foamy water’s edge, trying to catch a wave that will take them to an unknown world. As the sea consumes one, the waves bring another back to shore, a tiresome task for these turtles trying to find their way home. The ranger keeps a close eye on them; escorting the remainder into the ocean. I watch in fascination as these newly born hatchlings take their first steps in Banderas Bay, Mexico. Like proud parents, the groups of tourists clap in amazement as these hatchlings start their treacherous journey for survival. Only one in every thousand of these baby turtles survives long enough to have babies of their own. With a growing concern of endangered turtles, these eco-tourist events are established to educate and inspire the next generation of marine biologists. We tread carefully on the sand as we head back to our taxis, cautious in case the waves spit back another baby.

I catch a lady in my eye line digging in the sand, as we approach she reveals a nest of newly hatched turtles. The lady hands a turtle to as many tourists as she can, unsure whether this too is part of the conservation I stand and watch. The Newly proud parents take their hatchlings into the sea, disobeying the previous ranger’s orders; “No flash and no touching”. The flash goes off like a bolt of lightening in the sky. The tourists begin posing with the turtles and another flash goes off. I observe in disbelief as this new cluster of baby turtles have been handled so carelessly. But of course captured moments on camera are for more important than the life of this reptile.

The sun, the moon, and the stars would have disappeared long ago… had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.  ~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

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