Turtle Tossing Time!

They’re small, light, easy to handle, and they need your help
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

ASUPMATOMA is an acronym for a long Spanish name of an ecological oriented nonprofit civil association founded in 1995. Their goal is to protect marine turtles, as well as assist with environmental education.

They work with regional schools, the general public, tourists, and well, whoever will listen to them. Their activities are mostly in Cabo San Lucas.

The association emerged from the great need to take action against the environmental degradation of the turtle environment in Los Cabos due to the vast increase in population. They are joined and assisted by people with the same concerns: the irrational use of resources and environmental wear and tear.

Asupmatoma puts a lot of effort into patrolling our beaches, measuring the shape and size of turtle critters they find, and assisting mama turtles in laying their eggs. These mamas are notoriously careless about leaving them where notoriously selfish, uneducated people run over them or eat them. Asupmatoma volunteers snatch the eggs up as soon as mama leaves, then they protect them until they hatch, at which time they toss the babies into the sea.

They focus mainly on the younger generation in their education efforts, as they are convinced they are who shape the future. (And that the older generation is beyond educating or getting them to care.)

They have two turtle camps under their watch, dedicated to protecting, conserving and liberating marine turtles. One of them is Rancho San Cristobal, where the weather is warm and dry and their wildlife is pretty diverse.

There are five different marine turtle species present in the Baja, but only three of them are regular nesters here. Two of them nest year after year, the ridley turtle, (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). The brown turtle (Chelonia agassizi), nests here sometimes.

The ridley turtle is the smallest turtle species in the Pacific; in Mexico it’s distributed mainly on the lower peninsula. Its shell is gray in color, with hints of olive and it can grow up to 30 inches. These mamas lay their eggs from July to November mostly, although she may be seen all year. (What, do they forget? Can they not get a timely date to, you know, make his contribution?)

The leatherback turtle is the biggest marine turtle species in the world, its shell is not hard like its cousins, it’s soft and smooth, hence the name. In México this species can be found mostly in Michoacán, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Its shell can grow up nearly six feet.  This mama is a monster. Nesting season is from October to April, and its critically endangered, and incidence of nesting in the Baja is now very low.

If you are ever offered caguama soup, do not accept or even just taste it. It is illegal to eat turtles and that law is taken seriously. You will go to jail. Also, don’t eat the eggs, for crying out loud, buy some Viagra for that limp dick and leave the turtles alone. That’s probably just a legend, anyway.

The brown turtle is distributed along the Oriental Pacific, being very common in the Baja and the Gulf of California. It has a dark shell which can grow to three feet, and their nesting is mostly in Socorro in the Revillagigedo Islands, so don’t prowl our beaches looking for a brown.

ASUPMATOMA has several programs, all focused on protecting the environment. They are sponsoring a turtle toss on November 7th in Rancho San Cristobal; it’s quite a unique and rewarding experience helping baby turtles make their way into the sea safely. Turtle tossers’ job is to ensure the little guys make it to the sea, by keeping predators, (wild and human), away.

While participating in the toss, you will learn about general aspects of the turtles, the challenges they face, and how you can help them. At the end of the toss, you will receive an adoption certificate for a baby turtle.  You name it and take an oath to protect the environment as well as the species, and to pass on the knowledge you’ve just acquired. It’s not wise to bond with your turtle, as you’re going to have to toss it out to sea.

 

To participate, here’s the skinny:

-Liberation is only at 7am and 5pm (in the summer) and 7am and 4pm (in the winter). Baby turtles can only be tossed in certain hours to avoid natural predators. Being on time is key.

-No sunscreen. I know this is a conflictual point for your porcelain Gringo skin, but it is quite harmful for the babies.

Donations are welcome in currency and in kind, and as a volunteer.

You can contact the turtle people at:

Blvd Marina at the corner of Matamoros, downtown Cabo, inside  Plaza de los Mariachis Phone 1430269, Cell 624 12207 77, asupmatoma.org.

Now, if that schedule doesn’t fit yours, there is another turtle hugging gang that do a lot of the work of protecting the turtles with a lot less publicity and money.

the spirit of 'The Little Engine That Could', an organization named Ecoplan patrols and saves the turtles who wash up on the beaches of Poza de Cota and Rancho Margaritas on the Pacific side, in spite of getting no government aid or hotel contributions.

This smaller organization is chugging along through the efforts of just a couple of biologists and the support and generosity of local neighbors, as well as some contributors over the internet.

They rescue endangered nests and relocate them to an incubation corral, and are releasing the hatchlings now nightly, as they pop out of the eggs. are located about 20 minutes north of Cabo, near the Carasuva tours near KM 107 on the road to Todos Santos, but go to www.ecoplanac.orgor call 624-179-8661 to schedule your participation in their activities and releases--or adopt a nest. After all, it’s not like turtle parenthood entails orthodontia and college tuition; you toss your charge out to sea immediately after you’re sworn in as a loving, responsible parent. So call. Sign up.