On our recent Divers Market trip to Cozumel, Mexico, we took a side excursion one afternoon to participate in a turtle rescue experience at a research site on the eastern side of the island. As we drove along, we saw a beautiful wild coastline with empty beaches. Just 20 minutes from the resort-crowded western coast. We met our guide Lemuel who gave us a briefing on the species (green and loggerhead) and hatching cycle. We learned that there are over 7,000 nests of approximately 130 eggs in each. The nests are covered in 3 feet of sand and take 60 days to incubate. The females come ashore beginning April 15th and will lay in 4 or 5 different sites. From Cozumel up to 3.5 million hatchlings enter the wild. Sadly only 1% survive to adulthood. Most of the nests were empty since we arrived at the very end of the season. Our job was to rescue those last few in each nest that would not survive if not dug out. It takes 3 days for the hatchlings to dig themselves out of their nest!
We gloved up, broke into teams, found a flagged nest site, and began digging by hand. Shoulder deep, we began pulling out live baby turtles. What a thrill! Our team rescued 75 hatchlings. We counted both the live babies and eggshells from those already hatched and recorded the data for the rescue organization. After we collected the animals, we released them into the surf, cheering them on all the way!
A big thank you to Cozumel Turtles for the opportunity to participate in this citizen science project! Guaranteed next time we see a sea turtle underwater while diving, we will silently cheer them on!