On the Pacific coast, outside the town of Montericco, Guatemala, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to see, learn, and volunteer with a turtle conservation project. Plus, you can participate in one of life’s miracle moments by releasing a baby hatchling out to sea!
Releasing Baby Guatemala Sea Turtles
Biotope Monterrico-Hawaii (AKA Reserva Natural Monterrico)
This 20 km long coastal and mangrove swamp reserve if full of marine life and avian life. However, the most popular and protected animal to visit here year after year are the leatherback turtles, green sea turtles, and the olive ridley sea turtles. Administrated by CECON (Study Center of San Carlos University) watches, monitors, and helps protect these sea turtles as they make their way to the coast to lay her eggs during the months of June – December. You’ll have no problem arranging a turtle tour anywhere in Monterrico or the actual office of CECON.
This nature reserve is operated by ARCAS (Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association). Out of the three organizations in the Monterrico area, they have the most serious approach to turtle conservation. They offer great volunteer programs year-round, with the high season from June to December (turtle nesting season). They work by monitoring the turtles, collecting data, maintaining an onsite hatchery, restoring the mangroves in the area, and working with the local communities through educational programs about turtle and marine conservation.
This hatchery and miniature zoo-like establishments are well known to raise several endangered species of animals here. Also, run by CECON, you can see leatherbacks, olive ridley sea turtles, the green sea turtles, caimans, and iguanas. You can visit the interesting and educational trail with a museum. The staff gladly accepts volunteers and also offers lagoon trips.
The Tortuguario, also run by CECON, likes to stick to a local tradition that has been taking place for years in Monterrico. It’s called the Saturday night baby turtle race. It’s a lovely idea with all with good intentions. You buy a baby hatchling, the money goes directly to turtle conservation, you let it go, if your turtle wins, you win a dinner in a local restaurant. The main problem with this is that once the baby turtles hatch, their natural biological clock needs to send them directly to the sea. Since not all hatchlings are born on a Saturday, by the time the race begins, they are all worn out and can barely make it to sea. With a chance of 1 in 1000, this is just another obstacle for them. There are better ways to support conservation: donate directly to one of the two organizations. Buy a hatchling and release it the same day, don’t wait for the race. Or simply volunteer and donate money to ARCAS who are much more serious about their conservation methods.
Did You Know?
- Adult female green sea turtles come back to their natal beach every two to three years.
- They nest several times in one season each time laying up to 80 – 120 eggs.
- The eggs incubate for 60 days before hatching.
Pack dark clothing, long pants and closed-toed shoes.
There are many ways to help these organizations but the best one for me is to visit them. That way you provide them with the money to keep p the good work. Plus you and your family get to learn a thing or two about endangered sea turtles while having fun!
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