The month of May heralds the start of the turtle nesting season in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean. During the summer, thousands of sea turtles will emerge from the waves every night to dig nests in the sand and lay their eggs. Royal Resorts is ready to welcome these maritime visitors and protect their precious offspring.
Like biologists, marines, hotel workers and conservation volunteers all along the Quintana Roo shoreline, Royal Resorts security guards will patrol the beaches at night for the next five months on the look out for telltale turtle tracks in the sand. They strain their eyes at the mere hint of a domed shell in the surf as these marine reptiles heave their vast bulks on to dry land in search of a nesting site.
From May to late September, female green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and the occasional leatherback turtle, struggle ashore during the long, hot summer nights to lay their eggs on the beaches of Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Holbox, Cozumel, Sian Ka’an and the Costa Maya in southern Quintana Roo. Forty-five to 60 days later, their eggs will hatch and the baby turtles will break free of their shell prisons and race across the beach towards the waves and a new life at sea. In 12 to 15 years time, some of them will return to lay their own eggs on the same beach, repeating the cycle.
Royal Resorts is a Cancun pioneer when it comes to turtle conservation
Royal Resorts is proud to do its part to protect this ancient, and sadly, endangered species. A Cancun conservation pioneer, it has been watching over sea turtles since 1985. Official record keeping began in 1998 at three of its resorts for turtle nesting season in Cancun and 19 years later, the tally of protected nests at Royal Resorts stands at 6,932 and 629,826 baby turtles released!
In the 2016 turtle nesting season in Cancun, there were 246 nests with 25,435 baby turtles at The Royal Sands, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander; a further 2,968 turtles hatched at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun to the south of Puerto Morelos and 82 at The Royal Haciendas in the Riviera Maya.
Sea turtle nesting is cyclical and good years with lots of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs are always followed by slow years. Last year was a slow year, after a record-breaking season in 2015. We hope that 2017 will be a good year for the sea turtles.
Constant summertime vigil
In the weeks leading up to turtle nesting season in Cancun, Royal Resorts security guards attend courses on sea turtle habits and the procedures they must follow given by biologists working for the statewide conservation campaign. They are now ready to begin their annual summer vigil.
Night after night, they will patrol the beaches in search of nesting turtles. When they find one, they watch over her as she laboriously digs her nest and lays her eggs. They carefully collect the eggs and move them to a nursery where they dig another nest that is identical in shape and depth to the original. The species, date and time of nesting and number of eggs are recorded and another long wait begins until the eggs begin to hatch.
As the estimated hatching date approaches, the Royal Resorts turtle guardians begin to monitor the nest closely until they see the first tiny turtles emerging exhausted from the sand. They are moved to a container to regain their strength before being released after dark when predatory seabirds such as gulls and frigate birds have gone to roost.
Do you know the sea turtle season rules?
If you are going to stay at Royal Resorts or Grand Residences this summer, please join us in protecting our turtle visitors. Follow the rules for sea turtle nesting season in Cancun and the Riviera Maya:
• Alert the security staff when you see a turtle on the beach at night
• Be very quiet and keep still, noise, lights and the movement of people disturb nesting sea turtles and cause them to leave the beach without laying eggs
• Watch from a distance of ten (33 feet) meters
• Do not attempt to touch the turtle or crowd her
• Do not shine a torch or use the light on your mobile phone
• Please, no flash photography
• No smoking
• Follow the instructions given by security staff at all times
• Help us to keep our beaches and sea clean. Discarded plastic bags, drinking straws, beer packaging, fishing lines and other garbage floating in the water are lethal to turtles and other marine life
• When snorkeling or diving, watch turtles from a distance, do not swim towards them and do not attempt to touch them
• Wear a t-shirt when snorkeling as protection from the sun instead of applying sun block. Sun products pollute the water and are harmful to marine life
• Turtles are protected by Mexican law and it is illegal to disturb them, persecute or hunt them and consume their meat, eggs or purchase other products such as tortoiseshell jewelry and cosmetics made with turtle oil.
SEMARNAT, the Mexican environmental agency, enforced new rules for the 2016 turtle nesting season to keep human contact with the fragile baby turtles to a minimum. The rules stipulate that hatchlings can only be released by trained security personnel and not by hotel guests. Failure to comply with these measures can lead to resorts losing the right to have turtle nurseries on site or to be part of the turtle protection campaign.
First turtles of 2017 arrive in Cancun,Cozumel and the Riviera Maya
Earlier than usual, Cancun, Cozumel and Xel-Ha in the Riviera Maya have already reported the first turtle nests of the season. It won’t be long before Puerto Morelos, Xcacel-Xcacelito, Akumal, Isla Mujeres and other nesting beaches see their first arrivals, and there will be many more in the months to come.
A loggerhead turtle was the first to come ashore on Cozumel’s windward coast, Xel-Há has also reported its first nesting loggerhead turtle while turtle nesting season in Cancun began with a much rarer visitor, a huge leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), which was sighted at Hotel Emporio, next to The Royal Caribbean. Seldom seen in the Mexican Caribbean, the leatherback is known as tortuga laud in Spanish. Measuring up to seven feet long it is the largest species in the world. The name leatherback refers to its shell, which is rubbery and ridged, unlike the harder bony carapace of the green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtle.
Two years ago, another leatherback turtle came ashore in the same spot, but since neither of them was tagged there is no way if knowing if it was the same one or two nesting females. Turtles will return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs.
The leatherback turtle is a great ocean wanderer, swimming the longest distances between feeding and nesting areas, sometimes over 7,000 miles. It also dives deeper than any other turtle, to depths of more than 4,000 feet and can stay immersed for over an hour. Leatherbacks feed on jellyfish and many die as a result of swallowing plastic bags and other refuse they mistake for their prey. This is one more powerful reason to reduce the use of plastics that end up as ocean refuse.
Stay posted during the summer for more sea turtle news from Royal Resorts
For more news on the 2017 turtle nesting season in Cancun and the Riviera Maya check the summer editions of the Royal Reporter e-newsletter and this Royal Resorts blog.
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