Sea turtles are live witnesses of innumerable geological events in the history of our planet. These sea animals are descendants from relatives who existed more than 100 million years ago; since then they have survived massive extinctions, ice ages, and thaws.

These millennial beings have shared their space with humanity; however, now they are threatened or in danger of extinction and are protected by Mexican laws (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010).

Presently, sea turtles are facing threats including badly planned touristic development in their nest areas. Beach furniture, seawalls, and plastic garbage make it difficult for the females to nest and for the young to make their way to the sea. Plus, the turtles are very sensitive to light pollution: the female prefers to nest on dark beaches, and the light from hotels can illuminate long extensions of beach, forcing her to look for a less suitable place. Instinctively, as soon as the baby turtles leave the nest, they are guided by the light of the moon reflected in the shininess of the sea, to lead them to the ocean and the beginning of their journey. But with the bright lights of the hotels and streetlights, they become disoriented and move toward land where they die of dehydration or exhaustion, or they are eaten by predators or run over. If you live near or visit a nesting beach, you can help to protect the sea turtles and their babies by turning off exterior lights every night, and adding shades to your illumination to direct the light toward the the floor and not toward the beach. You can also remove furniture or any other physical obstacle on the beach every evening. If you are staying at a hotel you can ask them to follow these instructions.

The Península of Yucatán is an important nest area for three sea turtles species: loggerhead (Caretta caretta), white (Chelonia mydas) and tortoiseshell (Eretmochelys imbricata). Pronatura Península de Yucatán has been working on sea turtle conservation at the beaches of Celestún, Las Coloradas, El Cuyo and Holbox, with the collaboration of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP). Every year, the nesting season begins in April and lasts until September or October. The eclosion season, when the young ones begin leaving the nest, starts in June, and with a little luck you will be able to see some of them walking to the sea at dawn or dusk. If you would like to know more about the species, write to us at [email protected].

By Pronatura Península de Yucatán

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