The day after I arrived at Playa Viva I hopped on a 4-wheeler and rode a few minutes over to the Tortuga Viva turtle sanctuary. The rows and rows of markers looked a little like miniature headstones, but instead they served the opposite purpose. As the mother turtles had come onshore the night before to deposit their eggs, local volunteers were there to gather them and transfer each batch to the safety of the sanctuary. Now, they were marking last night’s finds so they’d be ready when in two months’ time these eggs hatched into baby sea turtles.
7 de agosto.
As I watched, the volunteers marked each of the previous night’s finds—recording the nest number, the number of eggs, the type of turtle, and the date.
Fast forward one week and I’m back at Playa Viva, relaxing before the start of a new week, when I hear the 4-wheeler headed down the beach from the turtle sanctuary. The volunteers arrive carrying a bucket, and when I peer inside I see tens of scrambling baby sea turtles – the first hatchlings of the year!
My timing couldn’t have been better: one week earlier I was watching eggs go into the ground for their two month incubation period, and now here I was looking at the season’s first set of turtles ready to be released into the ocean. Julia (Playa Viva’s manager), the two volunteers, and I made our way down to the waves where they poured the turtles onto the sand and we all watched as they scrambled toward the ocean.
Tortuga Viva’s volunteers told me that last year they released more than 100,000 baby sea turtles into the ocean. My fortunate timing—seeing eggs buried one week and baby turtles entering the ocean the next—is the result of the time and dedication these volunteers devote to gathering and caring for the eggs that mother turtles leave on Juluchuca’s shoreline. They protect the eggs from predators and poachers and shepherd the baby turtles back to the ocean when they hatch. Playa Viva supports and partners with local volunteers to support these conservation efforts.
Check out the video below to see this year’s first release, or, better yet, come down to Playa Viva to see it for yourself!
This Earth Day the community of Juluchuca, where Playa Viva is located, were so engaged, involved and excited about the trash clean up, turtle release, tree planting and recycling endeavors that it could have also been called Community Day.
This Community Earth Day started in the morning with the Playa Viva team working jointly with the 80 students of the the Juluchuca elementary school. We started the day explaining the concept of Earth Day to the students and asked what they loved about the earth. A chorus echoed through the school yard as the children called out the names of favorite plants, animals and activities. I explained to the students that this part of Mexico, their home, is very special and important because it is a dry tropical forest. Tropical forests cover only 7 percent of the earth’s land surface, yet contain over half of all know species of plants and land animals in the world.
We talked about the river that runs through Juluchuca and how it serves an important ecological purpose in connecting the land to the lagoons and ocean. I told them that one billion marine animals and birds die every year from eating discarded plastics. We discussed that much of this lethal plastic comes from trash in rivers spewing into the oceans. So the students set out as self proclaimed “Guerreros Verdes” (Green Warriors), with a mission to help save the plants and animals they love by cleaning up the river.
After filling bags with trash from the river, children ended their day planting two fruit trees in the school yard and celebrating by having a pizza party (pizza’s courtesy of Playa Viva’s Chef Alejandro). As we enjoyed the pizza, we discussed ways to reduce waste and increase the amount we recycle. All the children were fascinated with my metal water bottle, and I encourage them all to reuse bottles to reduce waste. The teachers were also very enthusiastic about the children’s response to Earth Day that they are now communicating with a recycling center in Zihuatanejo, about 40-minutes drive from Juluchuca. The recycling center provides support services to schools that become community recycling pick up locations.
Coincidentally, the first turtles that hatched at the new turtle sanctuary at Playa Viva were ready for release on Earth Day. So later that afternoon, family members of both the Playa Viva staff and of the members of the turtle sanctuary also converged on Playa Viva to celebrate Earth Day. This group of close to 100 started their Earth Day with a project to clean the beach. Afterwards, all were invited to celebrate the release of the first baby turtles from the new turtle sanctuary, 57 baby turtles in all. The group ate tacos and enjoyed the fruits of their labor as volunteers celebrated the work they do for the Earth as volunteers rescuing endangered sea turtles; as the permaculture team planting organics, restoring mangrove and regenerating coastal forest; as team members in a boutique sustainable hotel promoting…well exactly what we were all doing…protecting the Earth.
Earth Day at Playa Viva was enchanting, beautiful and successful, with all age groups in the community contributing to and appreciating the richness of the ecology around them as well as the importance of protecting it for generations to come.
Playa Viva is working jointly with WildCoast/CostaSalvaje on a summer turtle volunteer program at La Tortuga Feliz, the turtle sanctuary at Playa Viva in Juluchuca, Mexico (30-minutes south of Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa). We have two options, one upscale staying at the “eco-lux” accommodations of Playa Viva and the second is more modest plan staying in Juluchuca in the homes of local townspeople. Part of the fee for attending will go as a donation to WildCoast to continue their work in turtle conservation throughout the coast of Mexico. If you have questions about this program and would be interesting to join this September or October, please send us an email to info @ PlayaViva.com.
Just to catch up those of you tracking the progress of the volunteers at La Tortuga Feliz, here are the statistics for last month. Overall, the results are 27% down from same time last year, so that is why it is so important to have your support in person or through donations to provide the resources necessary to keep the turtle safe.
In the last few days I’ve received some of the best photographs ever taken at Playa Viva. While we have been involved in this place for close to three years, the images that are captured there still do not cease to amaze me. Just when you thought you saw all of Playa Viva, someone sends you slices of life from Playa Viva that refract the place in a whole new light.
In late January, Daniel Camarena, an amateur photographer, naturalist and co-founder of Mexican non-profit Gente Como Nosotros (translates to “People Just Like Us”) spent 3 days in Playa Viva taking pictures of the wildlife. His primary purpose for the trip was to photograph the birth and migration to the sea of the highly endangered Leatherback (Laud) turtle. The turtle sanctuary, La Tortuga Feliz, had reported to us that a nest of Laud turtles had been found and the eggs were scheduled to hatch on that weekend. Daniel and Gente Como Nosotros are in the process of deploying an environmental education project in Mexico that will involve hundreds of schools and thousands of school children. As part of this project, they wanted to capture the Laud Turtle for promotion and adoption by the school kids for environmental protection – we will provide you with more on this project as it gets formally released.
Daniel took photos of the volunteers of the turtle sanctuary at work in collecting and storing eggs safely in the sanctuary. He also got great images of the birds of Playa Viva and the landscape. Enjoy PowerPoint below.
The last few months have been the height of the turtle season in Playa Viva. The all volunteer team has released 27,000 plus turtles last month. But the bad news is that overall, they have released 30% fewer turtles than last year and the reason for these lower results is that the volunteers just don’t have the same support as last year and are in vital need of key resources. As a result, for this holiday season, we have started a small charitable giving campaign to raise $10,000 for a new 4×4 vehicle and gas to keep the volunteers reaching and rescuing as many baby turtles as possible.
How are we doing this? We have partnered with several organizations. First, the Oceans Foundation has agreed to serve as a clearing house for charitable giving. This way, you can make a donation and it will be tax deductible. We are asking you to give $100 (for adults) and $10 (for children). Go to the following link or go to www.oceansfdn.org and click on the “Donate Now” link. On the Donate page, you will see this:
I’d like to make this donation
on behalf of in memory of Please send acknowledgement of this gift to:
(email address or postal address)
Make sure to click “on behalf” and write in the blank either: “La Tortuga Feliz” or “Playa Viva Turtle Sanctuary”. This will guarantee that your donation will directed to this campaign. You can also send an email acknowledgment to email@example.com. If you would like to send a check, please make it payable to “Oceans Foundation” and on the memo or for line please write “La Tortuga Feliz at Playa Viva”. Mail checks to our address: Playa Viva LLC, 20 Melrose Court, San Mateo, CA 94402.
Also, the good folks at GreaterGood Network/CharitiesUSA.com, LLC have partnered with us on click-to-save program that will direct matching funds. We recommend highly that you visit their website and participate in their click-to-save programs.
Please let us know if you have any questions or if you have any ideas on how to help these volunteers continue their great work in saving more turtles.
Just got the report in from the volunteer team at the Tortuga Feliz. The number of turtles released is slowing down in January with 11,428 turtles released. Compared to last year, this is a reduction of close to 4,000 turtles, a significant drop. We will be watching to see if this persists and try determine the cause. The good news is that 42 highly endangered baby Leatherback Turtles were released.
If you have not seen it yet. Please check out the video in the Multimedia section of our website about the Tortuga Feliz.
While visiting the site last week, we released over 500 turtles. In January, the tide carries in lots of sand creating a sand bar about 50 meters out. So after releasing the turtles we went out to body surf in the waves. As we walked out, we found ourselves “swimming with the turtles” as they battled the waves to head out to see. Here is a photo of a young turtle taking his first swim along side me.
The year-end report for the Turtle Sanctuary is in and the volunteers from Juluchuca released a total of 202,854 Golfina sea turtles in 2007. In addition, they released 375 of the highly endangered Leatherback sea turtles. SEMARNAT released a report (in Spanish) stating that 2007 was the year of the turtle as it released a record 50 million turtles last year. We congratulate the all volunteer team with their huge success and for being part of a record year for Mexico and for the sea turtle.
In what looked like the local version of a barn raising, La Tortuga Feliz team is expanding its operations in anticipation of even further growth in 2008.