Turtles in Mazunte

Turtles arriving to the shore in Mazunte

Walking on a beach of Oaxaca is a true display of the amazing living nature of our planet. Walking bare-foot on the warm sand of the Costa Esmeralda, being an extraordinary sensorial experience because of the green jade-like colored waters of the Pacific Ocean, the fresh climate in the mornings, the sun rising which paints the sea and the clouds with orange and pink colors, the blowing wind tasting salty, the open sea with its deep-blue color in the distance, besides being an enriched experience, it could be a soul-touching one.

The ecologic awareness could suddenly arise while watching an amazing event that happens year after year as it has been for untold centuries. The surface of the beach is spotted by thousands of moving creatures which march slowly up and down the beach and towards the strong surf crashing on the shore of this tough sea, with a fierce decision which is only allowed by the Mother Nature. We have to walk slowly, to show respect to these creatures who have been in this planet many years before us. If something bothers them or represents some kind of danger, they could abandon the beach looking for a safe shelter in their element.

There are many, a lot of traces alike to those of the big tires on the sand. Some traces are curved, some others in a straight line, always trying to confuse depredators which look for the nesting spots where the turtles lay their eggs. This event is called "Arribazon" and when it takes place, more than 10 000 turtles, mostly Olive Ridley, can be counted by volunteers during a night walk. Kilometers of beach are guarded by the Mexican Army, scientists and enthusiastic volunteers from all over the world. Welcome to the beach "Escobilla".

Protected turtles in Oaxaca

The Mexican government banned the catching of all species of turtles along the Mexican coastline in 1990. Before the prohibition any person could catch them and trade their products without any restriction at all. The problem got seriously bad when the nesting beaches where ravished. During parties and festivities dishes made from turtle products were something usual in the whole country. The simplicity which the catch represents makes these species an easy target for almost every person; kids, fishermen, farmers, and housekeepers saw the species as extra cash, easy and safe. It is told that at the "slaughter house" of San Agustin, opened in 1968 and closed in 1990, more than 30 000 turtles were killed each year. Due to this, the number of turtles decreased severely.

Things have changed. In 1994 the Mexican turtle Center opened its doors in Mazunte, a beach nearby Puerto Angel.

Species of turtles in Mexico

Mexico is one of the privileged countries concerning marine turtles. There are eight species which inhabit all over the world. Oaxaca has four of those species: The Olive Ridley, the Hawksbill, the Black Sea turtle, and the leather back turtle.

The Mexican Turtle Center (Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga)

At the Mexican turtle Center, seven from the eight species which inhabit the world can be seen. Also, 6 species of fresh water and two of land are at the Center. The museum offers guided visits in different languages where the visitor will have the opportunity to know the main characteristics of these enigmatic creatures such as their biology and importance in the biodiversity, always guided by experts.

The main building is an aquarium with large glass windows where kids enjoy watching closely these amazing animals. One of the main objectives of the center is to achieve in the visitor an ecological awareness. During the hatching period, and after the birth of baby turtles, the center promotes several activities, working with the local community and tourists, such as releasing turtles and guarding the nesting spots. These activities create a lot more of opportunities to succeed in this amazing and important task of nature conservation.

Also a net with a releasing gadget, which was used in fishing boats, mainly tuna and shrimp catchers, is on display and tourists are informed on how the fishing industry is also concerned about preserving our natural resources.

There is an ethno botanic garden with the most representative cactuses’ species in the region and in the country. These plants and trees are common in the low forest. There are permanent exhibitions about topics of nature conservation, a cafeteria and for those who like to collect souvenirs; the local community manages a store which helps the economy of the people and includes them more actively in the project.

The Mexican Turtle Center opens from Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 16:30 hrs. Sunday 10:00 to 14:30 hrs. $20.00 pesos.

Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga
Kilómetro 10, carretera Puerto Ángel - San Antonio.
Mazunte, Sta. María Tonameca, Oaxaca.
Apartado Postal Num 16. Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca, C.P. 70902
Teléfono: +52 958 584 3376
Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga

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