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The Turtles Of Monterrico - Other Activity Monterrico - Guatemala

Three species of turtle come to Monterrico to lay their eggs. The leatherback (baule) is an awesome turtle with a soft, leathery skin that grows up to two meters long and nests here between mid-October and January. At birth, tiny male turtles head out to sea to spend the rest of their lives in the open ocean. Scientists are still unsure as to exactly where they go but leatherbacks are known for their long migration routes. After 200 million years on this planet, this magnificent creature is seriously near extinction. During the 2007 to 2008 season only 75 of nearly 40,000 eggs rescued by ARCAS belonged to the leatherback.

Another turtle found here, whose population numbers are also dwindling rapidly, is the East Pacific Black Turtle, a subspecies of the beautiful green turtle. This quirky turtle begins life as a fish eater but becomes vegetarian as an adult, preferring to munch on sea grass instead.

Visitors to this region are most likely to see the heart-shaped Olive Ridley (parlama) Turtle that nests along this stretch of the coast between July and December in large numbers. Positive conservation measures mean that Olive Ridleys are one of the few species of turtles not currently on the endangered list.

Female turtles always return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Once sure it is safe, they crawl up the beach, dig a hole with their flippers and deposit approximately 100 ping-pong ball sized eggs. The female enters a trance during this time and is completely unaware of anything else happening around her. After burying her eggs, she returns to the ocean, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Monterrico has numerous egg collectors. They dig an entrance way from the back of the nest and invariably remove the eggs before the exhausted female even has a chance to cover them with sand. Egg collecting is illegal but an agreement has been struck that 20 percent of the clutch (in practice 12 eggs) is donated to the hatcheries who will also offer to buy the rest of the eggs. The reality is that if a hatchery representative is not on site when the eggs are harvested, the donation is not made. When donations are made, a receipt is given to the collector so they can legally sell the rest of their eggs.

It takes 45 to 55 days for the eggs to incubate. The temperature of the nest affects the gender: males want 25 to 30 degrees, females 35 degrees plus. To ensure a good mix, the temperature is kept at approximately 32 degrees so the deeper eggs are male (cooler) and the eggs on top are female (hotter). When the turtles hatch, they are still blind as they dig their way out of the egg and onto the sand. Usually they would now begin their dash to the ocean but the hatcheries put chicken wire around the nest to collect them. The turtles are then all released together to increase their chance of survival.

The first few days of a turtle’s life are not happy ones. If a bird has not picked them off before reaching the ocean, there are many larger fish and predators hoping to do so then. Baby turtles swim continuously for the first 24 hours before stopping to find a safe haven. Only one turtle in a thousand eggs will grow to be an adult. Turtles can live up to 100 years old.

Monterrico, Guatemala

Other Activity

Here are other activities in and around Monterrico that may be of interest: Things To See And Do, Tortugario Monterrico, Parque Hawaii Arcas, Biotopo Monterrico-hawaii and Mangrove Swamp Tour.

By Kathryn
Independent and optimistic, I believe in following your dreams and have been doing just that, traveling the world for the last 9 years. British by...
06 Feb 2010

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