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Mazunte: A Safe Home for Turtles

Turtles are in danger of extinction, but Mazunte, once risky territory for them, has become a secure place.

Author: Masha (Young Reporter, Mexico)

Contamination, climate change, deforestation, all these and many more are consequences of human lifestyle. Another big problem caused by humans is the extinction of animals, or animals that have been pushed towards extinction. Nowadays, all turtle species are classified as endangered. Besides the big loss that this would mean, the extinction of turtles, would be huge, taking into consideration the importance that turtles have for all the oceans. Turtles contribute a lot to their ecosystems: they maintain healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life;, they help to balance marine food webs and facilitate nutrient recycling by carrying different nutrients from oceans to beaches or coastal dunes.

Turtles have always been in danger: they have a lot of predators. When they’re born they can be eaten by sea birds, crabs, raccoons and some other animals while on their way to the ocean, and as adults on the sea they can be eaten by sharks, grampus or other large size fish. But now, they are also being threatened by climate change, contamination and large scale fishing (they can accidentally get trapped in fishing nets). There is also the human, who practices poaching and the illegal sale of turtle eggs and skin. When turtles are going to lay their eggs, they return to the beaches where they were born. Local people and fishermen patrol and guard the beaches at night for nesting turtles. Upon finding a nest, they immediately harvest all the eggs, which can be up to ten dozen eggs. Mazunte, a town in Oaxaca, Mexico, was a population that used to live from turtle poaching and there were big slaughterhouses. Having less turtles nesting in Mazunte beaches, as well as a significant decrease of the turtle population are some of the main consequences.

The Mazunte population poaching practices were severely affecting turtles, since the beaches originally offered the perfect conditions for them. So, the Government took action, starting by closing all the slaughterhouses. But doing this meant that the people of Mazunte would lose their main trade and sustenance, since that was their livelihood. So there were two problems that needed to be solved: helping and creating a safe place for the turtles and finding a way to help the people, so maybe there could be one solution for both problems. The people could help save the turtles, and by doing that they would generate a new lifestyle. But there was an obstacle to achieve that: the majority of the people were illiterate. So first, the Government had to start programs to alphabetize the people, and to make them aware of the turtles’ situation.

So, in 1994, the Mexican Turtle Center opened their gates to the public, with the objectives of doing research for the conservation of the turtle, promoting the concept of ecotourism, and favoring the development of the community. To accomplish those objectives, there are many areas of investigation and diffusion, including the Living Turtle Museum. So now, the community of Mazunte is a place of conservation of the environment and animal life, having a more sustainable lifestyle, and helping the conservation of the turtle.

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