The Beacon

What's 'Olive Ridley' in Spanish?

Back in December, Oceana co-worker Jon Frank and I were lucky enough to spend a week traveling through Guatemala. Christa, another Oceana employee and native Guatemalan, gave us a whirlwind tour of the country -- from Guatemala City to the city of Antigua to Panajachel in the mountains to the Pacific coast -- and it was all beautiful (you can see for yourself at the photo slideshow.)

On our trip we were lucky enough to meet someone in great need of Oceana’s help: Lepidochelys olivacea, the olive ridley sea turtle.

Christa had promised us before our arrival that we'd make a trip to the beach town of Monterrico, where we'd have a chance to witness the release of baby sea turtles.

We didn’t believe it would actually happen until we got there. It was truly amazing. There were just over 20 of the little Parlamas (the common name for the species in the region) that were set to start out their life in the open ocean. This release is commonplace at the Tortugario Monterrico, which is managed by CECON (Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas de la Universidad de San Carlos).

We met Pablo, who runs the center that is also the home to many other reptilians including iguanas, caimans and freshwater turtles. Eggs from turtle nests up and down the coast are brought to the sanctuary where they are reburied and let to hatch in a guarded environment to protect from predators, poachers and accidental harm from human activity.

Check out some video we took of the event here (Pablo is the man talking through much of the beginning of the video):

When the little guys come out of their shells, they are placed in a pool until they are ready to be released, when they get a bit of support from the locals. It is sad to think that fewer than one of every 100 will survive in the wild. Beside the struggles these turtles face in nature, commercial fisheries and habitat destruction are two of the major threats to sea turtles globally.

It is also worth noting that on the way to and from the town we saw dozens of shrimp trawlers and a mangrove that had been cleared out for a shrimp farm, of which there is a photo in the trip slideshow.

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