Blue Cross Client Care Representative Dani recently spent some time in Guatemala and had the fabulous opportunity to help release some sea turtle hatchlings. We are thrilled to be able to show you her pictures above and story below.
When planning my recent trip to Guatemala, I quickly discovered the southern end of the country was well known for sea turtles laying their eggs along the shore. Unfortunately the turtle eggs are highly poached and used as an aphrodisiac to some of the locals, leaving the already endangered turtles with even less of a chance of survival. Several conservation facilities line the shore of Monterrico searching for eggs to take back to safely hatch in their protected hatcheries. Once hatched, the baby turtles are kept for no longer than three days where they are fed to build up their strength slightly before being released.
To my delight, I also discovered that the best time of year to see these amazing creatures would be exactly the same time I was going to be in the country! How could I pass up this rare opportunity to see these exceedingly endangered turtles? So we altered our trip to enable us to spend one night in Monterrico! Guatemala has several conservation facilities spread throughout the country doing what they can to maintain and preserve the countries endangered wildlife. ARCAS http://www.arcasguatemala.com/ is one of the larger conservation organizations in the country so we decided to go to one of their facilities to learn more about their efforts.
After making our way through the beautiful country we arrived in Monterrico toward the end of our trip. Hot and exhausted we stepped out of our six hour cramped private shuttle we needed to hire in order to get to the town to see the turtles in time. I was pretty much willing to do whatever it would take to have this experience. Monterrico is a beautiful little beach town filled with sandy streets, palm trees and dogs, children and chickens running up and down the streets. The town itself was very unique with its volcanic black-sand beaches.
After checking into our beach hotel we insisted on locating the ARCAS facility. Within 5 minutes we got to the centre of town which was surrounded by small beach hotels, restaurants and locals selling various handmade goods. An ARCAS volunteer Tony, spotted me right away and asked if I would be interested in learning about their conversation project. Talk about being at the right place at the right time! Tony led us to the facility and gave us a tour of the turtle hatchery and breeding/rehabilitation centre for crocodiles, iguanas and various endangered fish. After the tour Tony told us to come back just before sunset as that is when the baby turtles stand the best chance of survival due to predators.
The sun started setting as the large group of people waiting to release these precious babies grew and grew. Tony and his crew came out with several big containers of turtles and everyone who made a donation received a turtle to release. It is difficult to express just how wonderful that moment was, even thinking about it now makes me tear up. I made a donation for myself and one on behalf of Blue Cross, so I received two turtles. I named them Bluey and Louie! Once placed in my hands the turtles both started trying to swim! They were ready to go! After inspecting the beach for predators the volunteers announced it was safe to release them. As soon as I put both turtles on the sand they took off towards the strong waves, stopping for little breaks every so often. They finally made it to the edge of the water where the waves pushed them all the way back to where they had started from! I wanted so badly to help them all as we watched them struggle to get to the ocean. They were so tiny heading into the great big ocean without any fear! There must have been hundreds of baby turtles all wiggling their way to the water, it was quite breathtaking to watch as the sun set on this black sandy beach. Even though I had only shared mere moments with these two turtles it was difficult to say goodbye. I hope Bluey and Louie are still swimming strong!
–all photos and writing by Dani C, Client Care Representative at Blue Cross Animal Hospital