In a rare instance of positive environmental news, a record number of sea turtles have hatched in Mexico, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The endangered turtles, Olive Ridley sea turtles, could thrive so well because of lessened human activity around the beaches, experts believe. More than 2,250 eggs hatched into baby turtles on the Mancha Blanca beach in El Desemboque, a small town in Sonora in Mexico and were later released into the Sea of Cortez.
Members of the indigenous conservation group Tortugueros del Desemboque say normally the number of turtles to be released is 500-1000. According to a member of the Comcaac tribe and organizer of the turtle rescue program, Mayra Estrella Astorga, even more are expected to hatch and be released in the coming weeks. She told local media how the pandemic created complicated economic situations while bringing in sickness and death among her people, but this ‘miracle’ is a silver lining.
“'That's why we are so happy that in the middle of this tragedy, this miracle of nature happened — as a result of fewer fishing boats and tourists, but also through the efforts of the community,” she said. Astorga herself was infected and recovering from COVID-19 infection around the time the turtles came to the shore. Thousands of female turtles come ashore simultaneously to the nesting ground, which remains the same year after year. They can nest multiple times a year and every time, around 100 eggs can be laid. The process is called Arribada locally, which is Spanish for “arrival.”
Once they lay the egg, then return to the sea, leaving the unborn turtles to fend for themselves. It takes around two months for them to hatch out of the eggs. A lot can go wrong in this period, from accidental damage to intentional harm. Since COVID situation has driven out the maximum human activity; including leisure and fishing, the eggs survived and hatched.
Astorga called the year ‘worst of her life’ but also the best (because of the turtle hatchlings). “This is the work I love to do, and it was a great success this year,” she said.
The Olive-Ridley gets its name for the colour of its heart-shaped top shell. Though it is one of the world’s most abundant species, it is now endangered. Ocean pollution, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, hunting, hit and run with a marine vessel etc threaten its survival.
According to Dailymail, the peak hatching month for the Olive-Ridleys is October. However, only 1 in 1000 survive after being released. The new record birth might help improve their populations.