Conservation and Environment in Mexico: Monthly Updates
Conservation in Mexico Monthly Update - September – October 2013
The camp continues to run very smoothly with the number of nests collected since the beginning of the laying season, reaching a fantastic total of 1746. The majority of these are Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). However four nests of these nests belong to a much rarer sea turtle species, the Black Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizi). As October comes to a close we are seeing a marked decrease in the nightly collections to coincide with the end of the peak season.
However, as fewer turtles visit our beaches to lay their eggs we are seeing more and more of our earlier nests hatching. It takes the Olive Ridley nests 45-52 days to incubate and hatch, so we are very busy excavating nests to see how many babies we produce per nest. Our most successful night in August saw us excavate 82 nests. This meant we were able to release a staggering 6259 young hatchlings at a survival rate of 79%. In other words there were 7910 eggs in total and so this high success rate is a testament to the care with which the nests and eggs are treated.
As mentioned in the international news, hurricane Manuel battered the shores all along the coast of Central America but we were fortunate in that it struck just south of our camp. We escaped without any major damage although staff and volunteers were very wet for three days! Whilst we were lucky, the lagoon just down form camp burst its banks and, as a result, our nightly patrols now include a little boat ride to cross the river so that we can continue to patrol the 12km of beach south of the camp.
Lagoon bird biodiversity study
With the lagoon bursting its banks we have witnessed a vastly different habitat as the receding waters left huge mud flats. This has affected the diversity of birds we observed as increased food availability has attracted many more wading species. Our sightings have included a few wood storks (Mycteria americana) which are very rare on this lagoon. In addition the faster flowing rivers have attracted a beautiful but rare visitor to their banks. The Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is a wonderful little bird and everyone enjoyed the chance to see such a rare visitor to the area.
Unfortunately, due to the drop in water level we are unable to venture as far into the lagoon as we were previously able to do. This has meant that all bird surveys have been performed from the dock and the river bank instead of in the boat I am optimistic that the water levels will start to and we can get back out there exploring the further reaches of the lagoon. For now though we are enjoying the change in bird diversity this situation is giving us.
On our most recent bird survey from the dock we were able to spot both an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and a pair of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) which are both fantastic finds and proves that even though we may not be able to venture out on the boat the wildlife is just as prolific and interesting slightly closer to human habitation.
There has been a nest of “acutus” crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) hatching this month. This means that we have been able to get some hands on time with the little ones as they need to be weighed so that their diet can be adjusted as they grow bigger.
We have been continuing our bird surveys around the crocodiles’ lagoon and although we haven’t discovered any new bird species for the area we have been seeing large numbers around the water. Our sightings have included a large group of about 15 white-throated magpie-jays (Calocitta formosa) and a huge group of 60 or more yellow-winged caciques (Cacicus melanicterus) which were feeding nearby.
Our find of the month here at the crocodile farm has to be a tarantula (Aphonopelma sp.) spotted on the walk around the lagoon doing the bird survey. A very friendly little creature, those of our volunteers brave enough were able to have him run across their palms before releasing him back onto a tree. Tarantulas, whilst feared almost universally, are actually quite harmless with a bite no worse than a wasp sting and only when provoked. Once on the tree it immediately proceeded to weave a web. This was fascinating to watch! We have also been inundated with many different species of butterfly recently. They have been attracted by the ripe fruits falling from many of the trees in the area.
As we have been so busy with all our hatching turtle nests this has left us with limited time for any camp improvements these last two months. However, we have started to prepare planks of wood to use in the building of a replacement bunk house. The wood must be treated to slow down the rotting process caused by damp and humid conditions. Our current bunk house is getting increasingly close to the edge of a sand cliff due to all the beach erosion caused by the high wave seas.
We have been continuing with our regular beach clean-ups especially after the hurricane that inevitably washed up a lot of rubbish. Luckily a lot of it is plastic bottles and so we are able to make sure that it is recycled into further use. This is a very important part of camp life as any litter we are able to remove is one thing less for an animal (both on land and in the marine environment) to ingest and suffer from.
As you are able to see camp is very busy right now and releasing thousands of hatchlings most days will do that. I we hope you can join us soon to help out…
Conservation Manager, Mexico