December marks the beginning of sea turtle hatchling release season in Todos Santos, as the non-profit Tortugueros Las Playitas begins their daily evening hatchling releases.
If you thought enjoying a sunset on the beautiful beaches of the West Cape couldn’t get any better, try it while watching newly-hatched baby sea turtles tottle down the beach into the ocean for the first time. It’s a thrilling and touching experience.
Tortugueros Las Playitas is a non-profit that helps to restore sea turtles such as the Pacific Leatherbacks, Ridleys, and Black Turtles. Along with a team of volunteers, they collect the eggs of sea turtle and place them into their incubation greenhouse, which helps to keep the eggs warm and safe from predators.
Once the eggs hatch, the hatchlings are released into the ocean that day. Hatchling releases begin at the beginning of December and take place through early spring. The releases are open to the public and free of charge for anyone who wants to watch the young sea turtles take their first venture out into the ocean.
Turtles are older than dinosaurs but many sea turtles are endangered today. Their biggest threat is humans littering plastic that ends up in the ocean. Turtles consume only jellyfish and often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and end up consuming the plastic.
One of the goals of Tortugueros Las Playitas is to help save the critically endangered Pacific Leatherback Turtle. The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles. Its name comes from its unique back, covered only by skin instead of a hard shell, like other turtles. Adults can grow up to ten feet in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. It’s estimated that they live around 50 years in the wild although they can live up to 150. The leatherback is the world’s most migratory sea turtle and can travel up to 10,000 miles a year.
Leatherbacks mate at sea and the females come ashore at night to nest. They dig a hole in the ground and deposit around 80 eggs, filling the nest before returning to sea. Incubation is about 60 days and once the eggs hatch, the baby sea turtles must make their way into the ocean where they learn to fend for themselves without any help from their parents. Female hatchlings will roam the seas until they reach sexual maturity when they will return to the same nesting area where they were hatched to produce their own offspring. Male leatherbacks spend the rest of their lives in the ocean without returning to land.
The leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world. There are only about 2,300 females of the Pacific leatherback sea turtle remaining, making it the most endangered marine turtle subpopulation.
Tortugueros Las Playitas accepts volunteers to help with nest relocation, recording data, incubation supervision, and caring for hatchlings. Volunteers are responsible for paying for their own airfare, transportation, accommodations, and meals.
Turtle hatchling releases are open to the public and are currently taking place every night at 5pm at the greenhouse at Las Tunas beach in Todos Santos. Take the Camino International to arrive at Las Tunas. The location is marked “Tortugueros Las Playitas“ on map. For up-to-date information about hatchling releases see the Tortugueros Las Playitas Facebook Page to learn more about the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit their website: www.todostortugueros.org