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Hotel Eco Paraiso, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico
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Reptiles in Celestun

Turtle releasing at Eco Paraiso, July 2009

The Carey Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) arrives to Eco Paraiso beach during the months of April, May and June to nestle during the night. This turtle is fast and agile in the water, but slow, clumsy and unfortunately endangered in land, because its shell is sold in the black market as earrings and rings. Its eggs are also sold illegally because it is wrongfully thought that they cure asthma, having also high cholesterol levels.

Since 1980 "Pronatura" civil organization verifies that the Sea Turtles can nest their eggs in the Mexican shores. The members of this organization collect the eggs where they can be vulnerable and relocate them in areas where they are safe (in places with less predators, away from luminous spots, tides and humans).

At the beach of Eco Paraiso "Pronatura" established a safe nesting zone, at the top of the first dune. This is the perfect place for nesting because the sand is harder, which allows the turtle to dig easily.

The turtle nest has a shape of a clay pitcher of 23 to 30 inches deep, and a base diameter of about 30 inches. The turtle caves the sand with its back legs for about 2 hours (you can hear the turtle breathing while caving, similar to a human breathing through a snorkel). When the turtle finishes to cave, it places from 100 to 200 eggs, depending on its size and if it nested the previous year. The turtle always nests in the same beach, but sometimes the nesting zone is far away, so instead of coming back the next year, they nest every two years.

The eggs are hatched around 60 days under temperatures from 82 to 86 Fahrenheit. This is critical because it defines the baby turtle sex: if the temperature is below 82 F the babies will be male, but if it is above 86 F the babies will be female (that is why Global Warming could make it very hard for turtles and other reptiles to survive).

Sunsets, just after dawn are the perfect time for baby turtles releasing, because during this time the diurnal animals are at their resting areas: pelicans, seagulls, herons, lizards and iguanas are sleeping and the diurnal fishes are resting. Also, the nocturnal animals are just waking up. The first 110 yards journey at the beach and sea is crucial for the baby turtles survival, because it is when most predatory activity occurs.

Sea turtles have between 0.07% and 1% chances for survival. Although their probability chances with the "Pronatura" liberation program are still uncertain, the suppression of the diurnal predators activity helps them a lot. The surviving turtles can live up to 120 years, and they reach their reproductive maturity between 20 and 30 years old.

The earliest known turtles date from about 250 million years ago, with significant and abrupt changes over time: 120 million years ago their legs, used to move on firm land changed to fins. Also it is possible that many turtle species disappeared with a meteorite that landed in Yucatan 65 million years ago, like the "Archelon" species that measured up to 4.3 yards. The evidence that they evolved inland is that they nest their eggs at the beach or in firm land.

Number of Carey Turtles released at Eco Paraiso beach:
Year 2005 - 2,200 turtles released.
Año 2006 - 1,200 turtles released.
Año 2007 980 turtles released.
Año 2008 820 turtles released.
Año 2009 420 turtles released. 3 nests with 450 eggs were attacked by raccoons

How can you help the turtles to survive:
- Don't buy their meat
- Don't buy jewelry made with turtle bones or shelves
- Don't consume their eggs
- Don't take the shells or the sand from the beach; it can cause erosions making the soil impossible for the turtles to nest.
- If you watch the turtles nesting don't use lamps or flashes and keep your distance by at least 7 yards.
- Avoid bonfires during the nesting season.
- Pick up sunloungers, chairs and other objects on the way of turtles.
- Pick up plastic bags and other garbage near the nesting places.

A female sea turtle arrives ashore at her nesting beach at night in the months of April, May, June or July. She might nest two or four times during a single nesting season. Though she is fast and well suited to the water, she is slow, awkward and in danger on land. She drops about one hundred white eggs that look like ping-pong balls into a hole that she previously scooped out using her back flippers. When she finishes, she covers the nest with sand and slowly lumbers back to the sea. The eggs are ready to hatch about two months later.

All eight species are endangered or threatened. They are killed for meat and leather; their eggs are taken for food and aphrodisiacs. Their nesting sites are destroyed for industrial development. They are ground up by dredges, run over by pleasure boats, poisoned by pollution, strangled by trash and drowned by fish-line and net.

Crocodiles
There are two crocodile species in Mexico, the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the Moreleti crocodile (Crocodylus moreleti). The latter is found in the Celestun estuary. Despite their armor, which protects them from most predators, all crocodilians are threatened by extinction. Hunting them for their skins for luxury leathers and destruction of their habitat has made humans responsible for their precarious situation.

The order Crocodylia includes 3 families of the largest reptiles living today. They are a living vestige of a group called archosaurus of the Mesozoic Era which dates back 225 to 65 million years. Their most characteristic features are internal. Despite their ancient history, they are the most advanced reptiles, having an enlarged brain and cerebral cortex indicating their increased ability to learn.

Other species
Other important reptiles can be found in the region such as land turtles, boa constrictors, iguanas and geckos.

Hotel Eco Paraíso, Celestún, Yucatán México
Phone Office in  Mexico City: (+52-55) 55 68 82 46. Phone Hotel reception (+52-988) 916 21 00
E-mail: info@ecoparaiso.com
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