Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The coast of Oaxaca

 I've taken a short vacation down to see Lindsay, who was spending a month in Puerto Escondito, in Oaxaca, southern Mexico.  I flew in and then we have spent a few days traveleing around the area.  My first view of Escondito was not the best, I found it to be larger than I had first thought.  And quite hot.  The next day we went for a long walk down the beach, to a place called Barra de Navidad, where there is a river that flows down to the ocean.  We had to traverse a cliffy beach where the waves crashed up against the cliffs and threatened to soak us.  Afterwards we got to a long steep beach with lots of heavy waves and quite a few dead turtles.  We met a man on the beach who had a baby turtle and was releasing it, and who told us that a type of jellyfish was making the turtles die, and that we could come back that evening to see the release of a bunch of baby turtles.  Then we got to the estuary, where there were tons of birds.  We saw Snowy Plovers, Black Skimmers, a White Pelican, American Avocets, and the more commonly seen Black Necked Stilts.  Also we saw the Black Winged Whistling Duck.  It was really neat to sneak around in the reeds and water looking at all the species of birds.  We also found a dead snake, which was a Yellow Bellied Sea Snake, an uncommon sight in these waters.
On our way out we found a cute calf.  We returned later in the day to see the turtles, bringing a friend from the sanctuary, the place where Lindsay was doing the retreat.  There were tons and tons of turtles (micro turtles) and we got to see them learn how to move, a few climbed out of the shells, and then watch them all go out to sea.  Unfortunately, when arriving at the ocean, a bunch of terns were waiting for them and gobbled them up.  I was thinking about how the human interaction to help the babies out could have been different and let me describe my thoughts.  The eggs are protected from predators by the humans; they dig up the eggs right after they are layed, take them to a safe spot and rebury them, saving turtles.  The turtles naturally would come out of the eggs underground, then have to dig themselves to the surface, and some might not make it, so at this place the humans dig the babies up, resulting in more turtles living.  Then, the turtles would have to make a long trek across the sand to the beach, where many night herons and egrets and sea gulls would be patrolling, chomping them up.  We carried the turtles to the beach in a basket, saving turtles.
When we released them, we let them crawl down the beach to the breaking waves, where many probably drowned and many were probably less tired than before because of the less distance they had to go, so we probably saved turtles that way.  But still, tons of them were eaten while in the water by gulls and terns and pelicans, because they are conspicuous.  It is a difficult problem.  If they were to take the turtles and drop them in small bunches off of a boat driving along out at sea at night, I feel more of the turtles would be saved because there would be no concentration, and therefore harder for the birds to find them.  The flip side is that the turtles are given less tests, and so the genetic toughness is lowered.  But I think they are already doing that with all the assistance.  Turtles are a significant species here, so many people want to try to save them.  I also like them.

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