Zoe Carrol - Sea Turtle & Coastal Conservation in Mexico
3.30am. A beach somewhere on the west coast of Mexico. The pitch dark of the night is punctuated by stroboscopic flashes of lightening, and rent by deafening peals of thunder. Winds which would not be out of place in a hurricane hurl rain and sand with enough force to sting my skin as I crouch in the comparatively feeble glow of the quad bike lights, digging elbow-deep next to a turtle who shuffles and stamps mechanically on, oblivious to it all. Nights like this are hard work. It is high season – the worse the weather conditions, when more female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. It is close to dawn as I finally stagger back to the tent I call home; tired, cold, soaked to the skin and covered in sand from head to foot in spite of my waterproof clothing.
But I love every minute of it. It is why I am here.
The nightly patrols are central to the work undertaken by staff and volunteers in turtle camps like the one in Tecoman – the initial stage in both the process of conservation and in the lifecycle of the turtles themselves. Easily my favorite of all the regular camp activities, patrolling involves nocturnal tours of the beach by quad bike, tracking laying turtles and relocating their eggs to a secure corral area for incubation; thus helping to protect the young from predators and poachers alike.
It is a privilege to be able to release the new hatchlings into the ocean, to see them begin the journey of a lifetime which, sadly, few will survive. It is an even rarer privilege to witness the laying rituals of the adult females – the true beginning of the story. A story which, thanks to conservation projects like those funded by Projects Abroad, is more likely to have a happy ending.
There are a thousand pieces of advice I could offer to prospective volunteers:
try to learn the local language; always keep an open mind; be prepared to try anything; never eat the chili out of a packet of peanuts. But there is really only one thing I want to say: don’t hesitate, do something amazing. I know I did.