By Katia Silva, Marine Biologist and Guide at Cabo Trek
The waters of Baja California Sur provide some of the richest biological grounds in Mexico. Sea turtles once occurred in large numbers, feeding on abundant algae, sea grasses and invertebrates. The coastline is impressively varied but can be generally characterized as a mosaic of shallow lagoons or esteros, and rocky headlands interspersing long, wide sandy beaches on the Pacific coast, and a rocky coastline interspersed with short narrow beaches and small bays on the Gulf of California coast.
Los Cabos has wide array of sandy beaches suitable for sea turtle nesting. This diversity of environments combined with the large range of physical factors (temperatures range from 50°F C to 90°F), along with the nutrient rich waters, have allowed all five Pacific sea turtle species to flourish along this coast.
Sea turtles are very old organisms. They have lived on the Earth for more than 220 million years. They even managed to survive weather changes that killed the dinosaurs. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, but females return to the same beaches they were born on, once every two years or so, to lay eggs. Female sea turtles return to where they were hatched to lay eggs if they survive. Only 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles survive to adulthood. Turtles lay eggs in the holes in the sand. These nests are not easily recognized because the turtle covers them with an additional layer of sand. Depending on the species, each nest contains between 60-200 eggs. They hatch at night and are guided by the bright horizon over the ocean.
Sex is determined by the temperature of the sand. Warm temperatures tend to produce more female hatchlings, whereas cooler temperature result in males. For the past 20 years, researchers have been studying the sea turtles in Los Cabos. This monitoring provides important information to support protection of these animals.
Out of 7 known species of sea turtles, 6 are critically endangered. Sadly, the fact is that they face many dangers: accidental capture and entanglement in fishing gear, the loss of nesting and feeding sites to coastal development, crushing nests by cars on the beaches, lighting near the shore, poaching, ocean pollution and global warming. They are also threatened by turtle egg poaching, consumption and souvenirs.
You can get involved in caring for these beautiful creatures by assisting in hatcheries, maintaining clean beaches, and helping with marine conservation so they can live and breed in a safe environment. For wildlife lovers, this will be an experience you’ll never forget.