Spawning Turtles Return to Mexico Despite Threat
MEXICO CITY More than 100,000 protected Olive Ridley sea turtles have lumbered onto a Mexican beach in recent days to lay some 10 million eggs, just weeks after poachers massacred spawning turtles on the same stretch of sand.
Mexico's environmental protection agency Profepa said Monday that the turtles had arrived in the 72 hours to Sunday at Escobilla beach in Oaxaca state, a major nesting ground on the Pacific coast that is also a hunting field for poachers who plunder nests and sell the eggs.
Another 25,000 Olive Ridleys arrived on other beaches in Oaxaca last week in an eons-old annual ritual that draws females back to the same beaches where they were born to deposit their eggs.
Security was stepped up at beaches after egg poachers bludgeoned and chopped about 80 of the turtles to death last month on Escobilla, not far from the popular tourist resorts of Puerto Angel and Puerto Escondido.
Killing or capturing Olive Ridley turtles, the smallest of the world's eight sea turtle species, has been banned in Mexico since 1990, with sentences of up to nine years in prison. Profepa said it had teamed up with the Navy and the Attorney General's office to protect the nesting beaches.
The eggs, eaten raw with salt and lemon, are widely believed to be an aphrodisiac, although Mexican officials recently launched a publicity campaign to dispel that notion.
Profepa Monday took pains to note that the eggs have no aphrodisiac powers and in fact are loaded with unhealthy fat, "which causes, in those who mistakenly consume them, high levels of cholesterol and other illnesses."
As elsewhere, turtles born on Escobilla beach return there years later on nights between June and November to dig nests in the sand and deposit eggs. Thousands of turtles at a time can crawl out of the sea in a nocturnal spectacle.
Thanks to better protection from poachers and deadly fishing nets, the Olive Ridley is making a comeback after its population declined in past years. Record numbers spawned along Mexico's Pacific coast last year.