You can imagine the consternation and horror of the conservation volunteers at the recent arrival of 30 very sick and dying Olive Ridley sea turtles over an 8 km stretch of beach between Las Mañanitas and La Curvina, near Hawaii Park. Of these, 24 turtles died soon after retrieval, the remainder died over the following week. ARCAS are, as yet, unaware of any reports of casualties from other sites on the Guatemalan Pacific coast.
Colum Muccio of ARCAS explained “We have conducted necropsies, and have found the stomachs of the turtles empty. They have sunken, whitened, infected eyes, and those that are alive are weak, anaemic with grey spots on their shells, shrunken livers and lungs with bubbles.”
Local fishermen reported many more sick and dead turtles out to sea and ARCAS conducted an oceanic mission, rescuing 6 weakened but still live Olive Ridleys.
Their friends from Akazul and Protortugas have been helping cope with the crisis at the ARCAS Hawaii Park. Protortugas has taken tissue samples and has sent some of them to be tested at the San Carlos University and the conservation volunteers are anxiously awaiting results.
It would be good to also run the tests somewhere overseas. If any reader knows of where they can get some support for these overseas tests, please let ARCAS know.
The loss of 36 breeding adults is quite a blow in itself, but it is feared that more turtle deaths have occurred out to sea and the cause and the extent of the deaths remains unknown.
Named Hawaii for the surf-pounded fringing black sand beaches that serve as nesting grounds for Pacific Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles, this reserve protects 3500 hectares of mangrove forest, wetlands and lagoons on Guatemala’s tropical Pacific coast. Biotopo Hawaii comprises some of the last unspoilt coastal habitat in Guatemala.
These are important havens for wildlife and serve as nursery for fish and shrimp. From their volunteer centre on the beach, ARCAS operates the most productive of the 18-21 sea turtle hatcheries in Guatemala, collecting up to 40,000 Olive Ridley and Leatherback eggs per year for protected development, hatch and release.
Teams of volunteers patrol the beaches hoping to beat the “Hueveros” (commercial egg collectors) to the freshly laid turtle eggs, for removal to a monitored hatchery area. Hueveros are invited to donate a portion of their findings to the hatchery in an attempt to sustain future “arribadas”, waves of nesting turtles.
Sea Turtle Conservation
Habitat: Coastal Mangrove Forest and Volcanic Sand Beaches
Context: Biotopo Hawaii, Pacific Coast Guatemala
Issue: Mysterious Deaths of Pacific Olive Ridley Turtles
Taking tissue samples at ARCAS Reproduction Centre, Colum Muccio of ARCAS with Scott Handy and Sarah Lucas of Akazul
Community Conservation - Sea Turtle Egg Collection for Reburial in Protected Hatchery, Mangrove Reforestation, Chelonian Research, Environmental Education, Breeding program for Caimans (Crocodiles caimanus fuscus) and Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana)
The Arribada of Death
Asociación Rescate y Conservación de Vida Silvestre/Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS)
Intl Mail Address: Section 717, PO Box 52-7270, Miami, FL 33152-7270 USA
Street Address: Km. 30 Calle Hillary Lote 6 Casa Villa Conchita, San Lucas Sacatepequez, Guatemala
Telephone: (502)7830-1374 (Phone/Fax), 7830-4273, 5704-2563 (Colum cell)
WILD OPEN EYE Ltd UK Registered Company № 7674347
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