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Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program

Our staff at Wild Canyon doesn’t just organize, promote and book exciting vacation adventures – we live them! The Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program showcases that adventurous spirit and attention to detail that keep fans always returning for action-packed holiday adventures in the famous Los Cabos tourist corridor. Next to Wild Canyon, the sea turtle protection program is one of the greatest attractions for nature and wildlife enthusiasts who want more out of travel than just relaxing on a beach. That’s why we teamed up with ECOPLAN, nonprofit organization, to chronicle one a fascinating hands-on experience that ecology-minded tourists and their adventure-loving families can find anywhere on Earth.

Watch our experience along the Los Cabos sea turtle release program team while we patrol the Los Cabos beaches in search for turtle nests and learn how to properly take care of this wonderful species. Our guides are talking Spanish so remember to turn the close captions on at the lower right corner of the video player for English subtitles. If you want to download some cool photos of  the Release Program and the making of this video, read on and follow the instructions at the end of this post.

Why the Sea Turtle Protection Program in Cabo San Lucas Is Needed

The sea turtle protection program in Cabo San Lucas exists because sea turtles became endangered because of civilization’s encroachment on their nesting environments, illegal poaching, and fishing mishaps. Adult turtles nest and lay their eggs on land and the baby sea turtles, after hatching, move to the sea because they’re attracted to natural light over the horizon that reflects off the ocean’s waves. Unfortunately, only about one out of 1,000 babies survive until adulthood because of predators; that includes birds, crabs, raccoons, dogs, aquatic predators and other threats that attack the eggs and hatchlings. Even adult sea turtles aren’t 100% safe because illegal poachers hunt them for eggs, meat and shells.

The baby sea turtles often head toward beach lights, car headlights, fires, streetlights, discarded food and other stimulants of modern civilization. If a turtle heads in the wrong direction, its exposure to predators and threats almost guarantees its death. The Sea Turtle protection program in Los Cabos by ECOPLAN with the help of environmentalists, other concerned businesses and people like you that support them protecting and releasing sea turtles safely into the ocean can improve their chances of survival increase dramatically.

Although we’re not affiliated with the ECOPLAN sea turtle protection program in Cabo San Lucas, we support its work and methodology. The ECOPLAN team graciously granted us access to film this incredible journey that loggerhead, leatherback, olive ridley and black sea turtles make every year, mostly between June and November. Our video was shot in June when the biologists were busy setting up new protected nurseries for the season.

Filming the Sea Turtle Protection Program in Cabo San Lucas

The head of ECOPLAN AC (Planet Ecology and Conservation) is Martin Andrade Almazán, who was born in Acapulco but has lived in Cabo San Lucas for ten years. Almazán helped to organize the conservation program two years before we at Wild Canyon approached him for permission to film the sea turtle protection program in action. We interviewed Almazán, biologist Elizabeth Flores Breton, David A. Rojas, and biologist Lara Cibeles while accompanying them on their rounds to locate sea turtle nests and transport the eggs to protected nurseries where they’ll be monitored and protected by the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program.

Our odyssey took us along the beach where the sea turtle protection program team of biologists used special thermometers called thermoscopes that measure ground temperatures and moisture content of ideal nesting areas for sea turtle nurseries. Once an ideal incubation spot was found, the experts from the sea turtle protection program in Cabo San Lucas constructed a pen to keep out predators like crabs that feed on the eggs and young hatchlings. It’s necessary to choose a spot well above the high-tide line, and Hurricane Odile actually helped because it showed exactly how high the tide could get after the strongest of hurricanes. The area chosen for a nest must also be free of impromptu streams of water and puddles.

Martin Almazán Explains the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program

Martin Almazán explained the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program in simple, candid terms: “I met a group of distinguished biologists who deserve all my respect and who have helped the efforts to create this group.” The fledgling conservation program enlisted to become a formal non-profit and was granted the necessary permits to use the beach, which is on federally protected land. The organizers submitted a sea turtle protection and management plan that was accepted. The newly formed Planet Ecology and Conservation nonprofit organization proved therapeutic for Almazán because the organization was allowed to take part in the conservation efforts. Almazán further added, “This was very special for me since the introduction with the turtles was almost like a therapy for me… It helped me get out of a depression.”

The team accommodates individual groups and tourists who support the sea turtle protection program and want to participate first-hand in the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program. The sea turtle protection program releases hundreds of turtles almost every day during the season, and visitors get a once-in-a-lifetime ecological adventure that few events in the world can match.

Biologist Elizabeth Flores Breton’s Interview

Elizabeth Flores Breton, a founding biologist of EcoPlan’s sea turtle protection program in Cabo San Lucas, believes firmly in conservation and protecting our natural resources in rational ways. Breton was born in Mexico City but discovered Cabo San Lucas about two years before our filming. She commented, “In this area, taking care of nature is critical because we have the presence of many horseback riding tours and people who come in on with their vehicles; sea turtle predation in this area has been going on for years, and it is important to start a conservation program for these animals.”

Biologist Lara Cibeles, Leader of Planet Ecology and Conservation Camp

Biologist Lara Cibeles, who comes from Santa Maria Huatulco, Oaxaca, moved to Baja to work with these beautiful reptiles and the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program. Cibeles commented on the sea turtle protection program, “Personally, I enjoy working with living organisms and, above all, to preserve the beaches because this is one of the beaches that needs the most conservation efforts.”

Our View of an Incubation Pen

The pen we filmed contained 227 turtle nests that averaged 100 eggs each. Some hatchlings had already emerged on one side of the pen. Nests are placed in order according to projected hatching dates. Trained biologists monitor the eggs and hatchlings each day to count turtles and record the information for the sea turtle protection program.

We stayed in this general area while we filmed the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program. Locals and tourists visit the area daily—especially on weekends—and we shot them as they walked around and talked with our crew and the ECOPLAN team. The biologists insist that people not use flashes on their cameras because they disturb the hatchlings.

Recording Data for the Sea Turtle Protection Program in Cabo San Lucas

EcoPlan’s director, Almazán, graciously explained that the pens needed to be above the highest water line recorded from the previous year but below the dune vegetation area. This minimizes attacks from predatory crabs and other types of wildlife more common to lush areas of vegetation. Each nest has an identifying plank that records the number of eggs, turtle species, collection date, and time expected for hatching.

The nests are separated by at least 1 meter of space in a triangular configuration to reduce interference and prevent sudden temperature changes that might affect the hatching dates. The distance also prevents the baby turtles from migrating to other nests and provides more room for the biologists to move around.

Visitors and local residents are discouraged from releasing dogs at the beach because they often dig at nests or attack the turtles. That doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a pet, but you must keep it leashed.

Sexing Reptiles

Sex in most reptiles is not determined by chromosomes but temperature, so temperature control is essential to get an even distribution of 50% males and 50% females. The ideal incubation temperature is between 27- and 30-degrees Celsius. Higher temperatures produce more females, and lower temperatures favor males. It’s important to keep an even mix because more animals of the same gender reduce the species’ reproduction ability. More females might seem preferable, but having too few males results in genetic drift. You can’t tell if a turtle is male or female by observation because they don’t have external genitalia; DNA testing is required.

Searching for Nests

Sand density is an important clue for finding turtle nests. Areas where vehicles compacted the sand are too dense for turtles to nest or destroy existing nests. The biologists can often find turtle tracks that haven’t been washed away by weather and beach activity. Our video shows the parallel marks of turtle tracks. Clues are important because adult turtles try to camouflage their nests. When nests are found, the biologists enter information on field cards about the number of eggs, species, whether eggs are broken, temperature of the nest and whether the eggs are polarized. If the eggs have progressed to where a shell forms, the yolk has polarized and begun developing into a baby turtle. These eggs are left in the nest, which the team monitors, patrols and tries to protect. The biologists also mark the nests from which the eggs have been removed so that other researchers from the sea turtle protection program know that the nest has already been processed.

Incredible Facts About Prehistoric Sea Turtles and Mexico

Sea turtles were alive at the beginning of the Mesozoic Era 225 million years ago and survived the rise and extinction of the dinosaurs. Six of the seven surviving species are threatened by humanity. Threats to the reptiles include high attrition rates for hatchlings, loss of nesting sites, poaching, coastal development, pollution and accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

These magnificent but fragile reptiles need air to breathe and places to nest on land, but they’re well-adapted to survive in the ocean. The leatherback sea turtle often grows to more than 1,000 pounds, and some turtles live as long as 100 years or more. Mexico is home to more surviving sea turtles than any country in the world, so its citizens and businesses bear an especially powerful incentive to safeguard the reptiles because they’re good for the planet, good for Mexico and good for tourism.

We hope that you enjoy watching this inspiring video about the Los Cabos Sea Turtle Release Program and that you’ll consider a vacation to Los Cabos to see this incredible journey in its real-world setting. You and your family will enjoy the vacation of a lifetime with the attractions, natural wonders of Baja and Mexico, guest amenities and action-based excursions that are available. As always at Wild Canyon, we’re glad to help you plan or book your tour, and we can recommend some excellent trips based on our extensive research and youth-inspired idealism and sense of adventure.

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