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January 15, 2015

OAXACA, MEXICO

Fay Crevoshay
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Olive ridley turtles at Morro Ayuta, Oaxaca. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob 

OAXACA

It is hard to overstate the importance of Oaxaca’s stunning beaches to the long-term survival of sea turtles. In one night alone, on Morro Ayuta beach, more than 25,000 olive ridley sea turtles emerged from the sea to deposit their eggs. In 2014, along the sea turtle camps of southern Oaxaca, 424,228 sea turtles deposited 36 million eggs on Oaxaca’s beaches. Of those eggs, more than 11 million sea turtle hatchlings emerged from their nests in one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.

But Oaxaca is more than just a haven for some of the world’s most endangered marine reptiles. The ocean offshore is a haven for humpback whales, manta rays and sport fish. There is good reason that Oaxaca’s coastal wetlands are considered Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. In addition to their role as critical habitat for the survival of migratory birds, they are home to elusive jaguarundis, margays and ocelots.

In the 27,181-acre Huatulco National Park, WILDCOAST is working with Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) to help manage
one of the largest coral reefs along Mexico’s southern Pacific Coast. In 2014 we helped to train park guards and dive outfitters in ways to monitor and reduce human impacts on the fragile coral reef. Additionally, along with CONANP, we worked with Mexico’s Navy and local indigenous communities to develop an oil spill response manual and plan, including training local residents

on how to rescue and clean up wildlife. This was in response to a devastating 2011 Pemex oil spill to which there was almost no government response. Indigenous communities were unsure of how to clean up their beaches and rescue sea turtles and birds covered in oil.

In September, our ocean superhero, El Hijo del Santo, toured the sea turtle nesting beaches of southern Oaxaca along with Mexico’s national media to raise awareness of the need to continue to protect these beaches. While spending the night to safeguard thousands of arriving sea turtles, our team became aware of poachers who had arrived on horseback. Luckily, local rangers and Mexican federal enforcement officers were able to rescue the eggs, confiscating more than 10,000.

In 2015, we’ll expand our efforts to preserve the vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife of southern Oaxaca. In collaboration with local authorities, we’ll help to develop an ecological zoning plan for the area around Huatulco National Park and we’ll continue our efforts to preserve the coral reefs, sea turtles and beaches of one of the world’s most beautiful and unique coastlines.