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Natural Perspectives: A day for turtle liberation

September 10, 2012|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
(Photo by Lou Murray )

Vic and I went to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico with our son Scott and his family over the Labor Day weekend. Our three granddaughters and baby Mike constitute an active brood, and Scott and Nicole needed our help baby-wrangling.

We stayed at the Hilton Los Cabos, which is actually in the town of San Jose del Cabo, a few miles east of Cabo San Lucas.

We spent most of our time in the hotel's beautiful pool. At only four feet deep, it was ideal for the little girls to practice swimming. Adults congregated at the pool edge overlooking the ocean below. Sipping cocktails by the pool seemed to be de rigueur. I had no problem with that. Watermelon mojitos were my favorites.

Vic noted a fenced enclosure on the beach below the pool and went down to investigate. He discovered that it was a sea turtle nesting enclosure, with nests marked off every couple of feet. Based on the symmetrical pattern, it looked as though the eggs had been moved there. And as I discovered, that is exactly what had taken place.

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Vic had to leave a couple of days before the rest of us, so he missed what was for me the most exciting part of the trip. Nicole noted someone working in the turtle enclosure. We went down there and found a biologist taking turtles out of their sand nests. He told us that they were olive ridley sea turtles.

The eggs had been laid elsewhere along the coast of Los Cabos. They are dug up and reburied about a foot down in guarded, fenced enclosures at various locations to protect the eggs and little turtles. After about two months, the baby turtles hatch out. They remain underground until they are ready to dash for the sea.

Normally, the babies make that run at night. But a few clutches emerge in the daytime only to find Magnificent Frigatebirds waiting for them. The birds pick off many of the turtles from the sand before they can make it to the ocean. But even in the water, the babies aren't totally safe. Birds will pluck them from the sea as they come up for air. I noted three frigatebirds circling overhead, watching the biologist work, probably hoping for a snack of baby sea turtles.

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