Conservation and Environment in Mexico: Monthly Updates
Conservation in Mexico - Monthly Update January - February 2013
In what has been of the present year on our turtle conservation program the number of nests collected till February 28th was 123, of which two were the critically endangered leatherbacks. As the number of nests become more scarce we can clearly see the decrease brought by the low season in turtles, however the patrols must be kept constant as we cannot afford to lose ground on our beach as poachers keep patrolling the beach as well and it is in this point, when turtle eggs become more rare, that the prices in the black market elevate dramatically, making turtle eggs poaching a very profitable illegal activity that our efforts must come to stop.
A couple of years ago the government through their environmental agency (SEMARNAT) decided to support an eco-tourism program in the Chupadero lagoon. As part of the program, there was an addition of off board engine boats to offer tours around the lagoon to the public. We saw that it was possible to start adding their services to our already ongoing project. Using their resources and knowledge of the area we have been able to add a few more destinations, which had been out of our reach in the past, to our already monitored areas. These areas have proven to be isolated virgin paradises.
Within el Chupadero lagoon we made our survey in an area called la Colorada ( 18®44´9.338”N 103®46´47.393”W) where we could see the vastness of the numerous species such as blue winged teals, Mexican mallards, whistling ducks, etc. The birds use this vessel of water as a resting area in their migratory routes.
But perhaps the most interesting and breathtaking of the new sites is an area called El Caiman that lies about 10 kilometers south of camp. After a 45 minute long boat ride we came to discover El Caiman (18®42´46.620”N 103®45´41.084”W), a branch of the El Chupadero Lagoon. Perhaps the name was given by the several Crocodiles that inhabit the area. We managed to identify at least three crocodiles class 4 –over 220cm of length- Acutus Crocodiles. Due to the lack of human presence, this area enjoys of a vast amount of undisturbed bird species which makes this place a true paradise for our biodiversity surveys.
It is not very often that we get the chance to add new species to our bird checklist at the lagoon; however on January 31st we had the luck to spot a Vermillon Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus. It was, ironically, perching on the docks. Added to our checklist, it became bird species number 74.
The last few weeks, along with the veterinarian in charge of the management plan, we have started to help in the rehabilitation of an area in the main building that will become an exhibition space for crocodile facts for educational purposes. In this area we will recreate artificially a Crocodile Acutus nest and will show several crocodile skeletons that we have managed to collect. This collection is due to be ready for Easter, when the center receives its most visitors.
As the next new moon comes to approach, the nights have been turning darker, giving us the opportunity to conduct one of our night censuses of the la Colorada lagoon. This last time we could use a new format to collect files, in this new format we take notes of the species and measurements from a distance. The measurements are taken as we approach the specimen in the boat. As you see the size of the head (from the tip of the snout to the end of the skull), you multiply this distance x 10, giving you an approximation of the total size of the reptile. We spotted 24 different specimens, with a predominant size that is designated as a class 4 Crocodile (over 2.20 meters long).
In addition to the survey we are starting a capture, mark, release program that will be implemented first in the facility’s lagoon, and then will be brought to the adjacent lagoons to see average sizes in different spots.
With the tutorial of our new staff member Juan José Díaz (a.k.a Rene), our volunteers have managed to collect over 450kg of plastic from our beach in these last few months. This has already been sent to the recycling center. Even though it is not the most popular of our activities, it is important to take notice of how relevant this activity is in the eyes of the local public as it encourages a general environmental consciousness.
Construction and Maintenance
As part of the turtle low season activities, we have the chance to enhance our already existing facilities, giving a little bit more comfort to our volunteers. As part of this, we built a wooden pathway connecting the bathroom areas, dormitory building, and classroom. This way, our volunteers can access every area in camp on footpaths. In addition, we have protected our existing buildings and signs by adding wood finish and termite protection.
With the invaluable help from our volunteers we started to bring down the roof of the structure that covers the pools that we use as a nursery for damaged turtles. In the next few days, we will take down the entire structure. Then, in the next few months, we will replace it with a newer, much improved ramada (locally made structure).