Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation in Mexico
- Placement location: Cuyutlan, Colima
- Role: Work directly with sea turtles at a conservation centre, help care for captive breeding crocodiles, and conduct wildlife research
- Requirements: None. Anyone aged 16 and older can join
- Main Research Focus: Conservation of sea turtles, crocodiles, and native birds
- Local Environment: Coastal
- Accommodation: Volunteer house
- Length of placement: From 1 week
- Start dates: Flexible
Our Conservation Project in Mexico is a rare chance for you to contribute directly to the protection and preservation of sea turtles. The work done at this project is critical, as many of the turtle species that nest on beaches in Mexico are increasingly endangered and the biodiversity research conducted in lagoons and estuaries is used by researchers and scientists across the Americas.
As a volunteer, you will work alongside local experts on various conservation and environmental projects focusing on the protection of turtles, crocodiles, and birds. The project is based at a turtle conservation centre on the Pacific coast in the town of Cuyutlan, El Tortugario Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlan. Our volunteers also work at a lagoon located next to the turtle centre in Cuyutlan, and once a week spend time at La Colorada Crocodile Centre in the nearby town of Cofradia de Morelos.
If you have a passion for nature and wildlife, and are eager to get actively involved in conservation, efforts, the Conservation Project in Mexico is great for a gap year, career break, or as part of a vacation. This project is also an excellent opportunity for undergraduate and postgraduate students looking to do academic research. You do not need previous experience to take part. All you need is to be enthusiastic about getting involved!
Your Role as a Conservation & Environment Volunteer in Mexico
Your time on this project is split between work at the turtle conservation centre, La Colorada Crocodile Centre, and a nearby mangrove lagoon. You will take part in various activities, including:
- Working with trained staff at El Tortugario to conserve endangered turtles, including:
- Taking part in night time beach patrols on foot and by ATV to collect turtle eggs. We are responsible for patrolling and monitoring a 30km stretch of black sand beach.
- Re-burying the eggs at an enclosed area at the conservation centre, called a “corral”.
- Collecting information about the in situ or poached nests for research and statistical purposes.
- Monitoring the nests where the relocated eggs have been placed.
- Working at the corral to collect newborn turtles as they emerge from the nests and releasing them into the sea. It typically takes six weeks for eggs to hatch.
- Cleaning of adult and hatchling sea turtle tanks and looking after their wellbeing. You will help ensure that they are well fed, uninjured, unstressed, and that they are measured and weighed once a month.
- Assisting with the care of baby and adult green iguanas at El Tortugario. This involves feeding and maintaining enclosures.
- Spending one day each week at La Colorada Crocodile Centre, including:
- Helping to prepare food for the crocodiles.
- Taking biometric data and marking the crocodiles in nearby lagoons.
- Taking part in painting and maintenance work.
- Working with staff at Palo Verde estuary and El Chupadero lagoon on a biodiversity project, including:
- Learning how to identify a large variety of wildlife, mostly birds.
- Recording information on data sheets and then entering it into a computer database back at the centre. Information is gathered through direct observation and trap cameras for night surveillance.
- Helping to grow mangrove seedlings in a greenhouse and reforesting areas where the mangrove forest has been damaged or removed.
- Getting involved with educational and environmental outreaches. Volunteers can choose to take part in education initiatives and visit schools and run environmental awareness campaigns in nearby communities.
- Assisting with maintenance and construction work, including:
- Community beach clean-ups.
- Building and refurbishment work at the camp and La Colorada Crocodile Centre.
- Collecting palm leaves for replacing and maintaining the thatched palapa roofs at the camp.
Some of this work takes place at night, so volunteers work on a rotation. This normally involves working for around 5 hours each day. There is also plenty of time for volunteers to relax at the volunteer house and enjoy some leisure time. This is especially true during the hottest part of the day when we avoid the midday sun!
There are turtles all year round in Mexico, but the high season is from June to December, with September usually being the busiest month. However, we are finding increasing numbers of rarer turtle species, such as Green Turtles and the gigantic Leatherback Turtles, nesting on the beach in all seasons.
From January to May there are fewer turtles nesting each night, allowing us to concentrate more on the other activities of the centre, such as educational initiatives and research.
The Goals of Conservation & Environment in Mexico
The aims and objectives of this project involve the conservation and reintroduction of various species of wildlife. We are also involved in biodiversity studies. Conservation sites in Mexico are protected by SEMARNAT (The Department of Environmental Affairs and Natural Resources).
One of the conditions of our agreement with SEMARNAT is that we undertake significant scientific research on the coastline. We have a wide range of established and new projects which survive thanks to our volunteers. The three main species we work to conserve are Olive Ridley turtles, American crocodiles, and Morelet’s crocodiles.
Since 2006 we have also been working at the El Chupadero lagoon. Following several years of data collection by the volunteers the area was declared a Ramsar site in March 2009. A Ramsar site is awarded by the Ramsar Convention. They recognize wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity. This is one of the most important titles a protected area can receive. It is testament to the hard work and effort put in by volunteers and Projects Abroad staff.
You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Mexico Conservation Management Plan.
Accommodation and Food on the Conservation Project
Volunteers on this project live in a shared volunteer house in Cuyutlan, located close to the town centre and the black sand beach. The house has a communal kitchen and a swimming pool and each volunteer will help with keeping this shared living space clean.
Lunch is provided by a local cook, with a late lunch being the main meal of the day. This is a great time to discuss the previous night's work. There is food provided in the kitchen for volunteers to make breakfast and dinner. You'll also have time to relax, read, or swim, and enjoy all that Mexico has to offer!
Please note that if you arrive in Mexico on a Friday or Saturday, you will stay with a local host family in Guadalajara before travelling to the project on Monday, as there are no conservation activities planned over the weekend.
The Conservation Project in Mexico is available from one week if you don't have time to join us for a month or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for shorter durations for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain valuable cultural insight and work intensely within the local community please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone participating for a longer period.
If you are a high school student and first-time traveler you may want to consider our High School Special programs in Mexico.