With the help of groundskeepers, security staff and property owners, over 2000 baby sea turtles began their life this year on the beach of Soliman Bay. At the request of the majority of the property owners along this tranquil bay between Akumal and Tulum, the Mexican Organization for Environmental Conservation (OMCA for its acronym in Spanish) facilitated a new sea turtle program. Over 30 staff members, including housekeepers, were trained in the basics of sea turtle ecology and protection. They learned how to identify both Loggerhead and Green sea turtles, mark the nests and make sure the hatchlings safely made their way to sea. Staff also helped educate guests about the program while making sure no one interfered with the turtles’ lifecycle. Even the staff at Chamico’s restaurant at the end of the bay participated.
Although Soliman Bay is a small, secluded beach along the expansive coast of the Riviera Maya, this project demonstrates the importance of engaging local staff and beachfront owners in sea turtle protection efforts. The beaches and dunes in the Mexican Caribbean are important nesting grounds for at least two species of sea turtles. And what better way to help improve species survival than getting local citizens to lend a helping hand? The reaction was amazing, listening to the individual experiences from a cleaning lady or gardener as they described their experience counting hatchlings and cleaning out empty nests, or watching the mother turtle plod her way back to the surf after laying a nest.
The program’s first year was a success mainly due to the help of a local resident who is also studied environmental management, volunteering so much of her time to make sure things were done correctly. Likewise, one local condo owner spearheaded the outreach fundraising activities with the other property owners, even organizing a season finale gathering to congratulate everyone on a job well done.
Next year promises to be better as we build on the experience gained this year. We are hoping all the property owners will join in the efforts. It would be great if this project could help inspire an environmental protection and management actions in order to keep Soliman Bay the remarkable natural gem it is today.