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Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C. – Turtle Rescue and Conservation

Five species of sea turtle are found along Mexico’s Baja California peninsula; a region that provides both nesting habitat and vital feeding grounds for turtles from as far away as Japan and Indonesia.

Olive Ridley

The Olive Ridley is the most abundant of all of the species of sea turtle. They use the beaches in the south of the Baja California peninsula and Todos Santos and the state of Sinaloa (Mainland) for reproduction. They frequent the bays, estuaries and pelagic zones of the region for feeding.

The Leatherback

Leatherback mothers lay their eggs from October through March. The beaches north of Los Cabos, near the towns of Pescadero and Todos Santos, while as yet undeveloped, are too chilly through most of nesting season for the eggs to stay viable—only the early October nests have a chance.

Todos Tortugueros

Tortugueros Las Playitas is a non-profit organization working under a federal permit issued by SEMARNAT.  The group operates a unique Incubation Greenhouse to enhance the hatching rate in critically endangered Leatherback nests. The Incubation greenhouse is built each year with donated materials and constructed by hard working volunteers.

Twice and sometimes three times a night during nesting season, members of the Tortugueros Las Playitas team patrol the local beaches. As soon as a nest is found, trained volunteers move the eggs into the cozy greenhouse.

As the hatch date approaches, volunteers keep a close eye on the nests. The hatchlings are released on the beach to make their way to the sea, where they’ll confront both natural and man-made dangers. The females who survive to adulthood will return to these beaches to lay their own eggs.

In the 2011-12 nesting season,  714 Leatherback eggs—from 13 nests were protected, and 412 Leatherback hatchlings were released. Hatch rates have exceeded expectations, and local schoolchildren, fishermen, and community members are catching the Tortugueros Las Playitas team’s enthusiasm for turtle conservation.

Volunteer forms can be downloaded from Todos Tortugueros website. Experience is not a requirement, all applicants are accepted provided there is space.

Great experience; perfect for families

Rating: 5/5 
Keith Malone
Reviewed: August 14, 2012

I participated in a turtle release last summer (2011) and wasn't sure what to expect. Whether you're an adult or a child, you have a chance to do some good (increase turtle populations), learn a little about biology and have a chance to enjoy and soak in the beauty of Baja California Sur. It took some time for the the baby turtles to make their way to the ocean as they fought against the incoming waves. Despite the potential for boredom (it takes these tykes forever to enter the sea), I found myself rooting for them. It gives you an appreciation for the natural wonder and the obstacles these turtles face.

If you have children, I'm pretty sure they will go nuts for this activity, and will remember it. I can't imagine anyone not being touched by the experience.

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Dropping Everything for Leatherbacks

Rating: 5/5 
Joshua Lurie
Reviewed: May 16, 2012

Pamplona has the running of the bulls, and Todos Santos has the running of the…leatherback turtles? Of course the bulls run faster, and cause more mayhem, but it’s still worth dropping everything to witness the Tortugueros Las Playitas help leatherback hatchlings from their shells and into the ocean. The tiny turtles, no longer than a thumb, break free from their shells and bare their tiny flippers, which is a wonder to witness. Volunteers patrol 36 kilometers of coastline from Punta Lobos to El Carizal, hunting for nests and tracks. It was remarkable to see this endangered species, and they’re worth dropping everything to witness. As we learned, if leatherbacks disappear, there will be a "jellyfish explosion," and the fish population will plummet, since jellyfish eat tiny fish and eggs. Clearly, the turtles aren’t just beautiful, they’re also important to oceanic ecology, and it was a pleasure to receive that lesson and to have the experience.

This review was submitted by Joshua Lurie, a writer from Los Angeles. Joshua has participated in the Baja.com Scribes program, a program designed to encourage writers to create original content about Baja California. Baja Scribes may receive food, lodging or payment, but they are encouraged to submit their own opinions on this site, which may not reflect the views or opinions of Baja.com. Joshua’s website documenting his travels can be found here.

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