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Friday, August 1, 2008

The Turtle Experience of the new "tortugueros" in Xcacel

Expedition members returned back to base on Wednesday after two exciting days at Xcacel. Everyone was eager to share stories and pictures of their tiring but fulfilling experience

The day started with a tour and talk on the camp, everyone was then advised to take a nap before the long night ahead of them. So after setting up their hammocks they settled in to camp life. At 8.30 pm groups were organised and then at nine they set off to work.

The first job of the evening was to release two day old baby turtles to the sea. These turtles had been tagged by removing part of the carapace and replacing it with part of the plastron. This process is carried out on all baby turtles born at the camp so that they can recognise them when they return to the beach to nest 20 years later.

Covering three of the beaches Xcacel, Xcacelito and Chemuyil the patrols started by walking along the beach to see how many turtles were nesting. Depending on the beach or where the turtles were nesting the expedition members waited for the turtles to make their nest and lay their eggs. They then either marked where the nests were or removed the eggs to a safer place. Nesting usually took half an hour to an hour so they waited and watched with anticipation as the turtles carefully dug their nesting holes. Once the eggs had been laid and the holes covered back up the careful procedure of measuring the turtles length and width was logged as well as recording their tagging number as the turtles were still in their trance like state. If there were no tags then the difficult job of tagging the turtles had to be carried out, this was difficult because of the turtles tough skin.

Other jobs included egg counting and relocating the nests to safer places away from the shore line. Also new hatchlings that had surfaced from their nests had to be counted and the nests had to be checked to see if there were still new hatchlings trapped deep in the sand. Once counted, the hatchlings were taken back to the base to be tagged.

By 5.00 am everyone was exhausted but exhilarated from their busy night.

Over all the weekend was an unforgettable experience that has had the whole camp excited about future visits. We would like to thank the informative and helpful staff at Xcacel for making our visit as enjoyable as possible.