Sea Turtle Release Videos

On this page, you can watch a three part video series we filmed at the Tortugueros Las Playitas, A.C. turtle nursery just north of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur on January 30, 2014. The videos show parts of the process involved in protecting the eggs of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles. The videos are subtitled in either English or Spanish as necessary so that all dialogue is accessible in each language.

You will also find the lyrics to the song that comprises the soundtrack. A bilingual PDF version can be downloaded here. The song was originally written in Spanish, so the English version is just a translation, not designed for singing in English.

Part 1. Go inside the turtle hatchery (hothouse) to see the nests and learn a little about the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).

Why are the turtle eggs in an incubator/hot house?

There are a number of reasons. Human activity along the beaches of the Los Cabos region has created a deadly environment for adult breeding female turtles, their eggs and hatchlings. The conservation group Tortugueros Las Playitas, one of a number of groups in the region, patrol a 34 km stretch of beach, looking for signs of new nests between dusk and dawn and discouraging poachers. Vehicles and feral dogs destroy nests left in place, so by relocating as many fresh nests to their monitored enclosure, they can maximize the turtles' reproductive success. Not all of the conservation groups have a hot house, but here along the cooler Pacific coast, it creates a toasty environment conducive to timely hatching of the vast majority of the eggs.

Why do they use the wire cages?

When the turtles hatch, the wire cages prevent them from running all over the hatchery or mixing with hatchlings from other nests erupting simultaneously. When the nests were relocated, the eggs were counted, so volunteers have to keep track of the number of hatchlings that have erupted from each nest and calculate how many still remain inside.

Why are the hatchlings kept in a bucket instead of being released as soon as they hatch?

The turtle nursery is trying to assure that every hatchling gets a good start in life and doesn't get eaten by birds or other animals while crossing the beach to the ocean. When they hatch in the early morning or during the day, they are removed from the hot house and kept in a container in damp sand in the shade until evening. Meanwhile, they get lots of warm-up exercise they'd normally get while crossing the beach, and so are ready to run after sundown, when the threats on the beach are very low.


Part 2. Inside the hatchery with volunteers checking nests for stragglers and preparing for the release.

Why are they digging up the nests???

The majority of the eggs have already hatched over about a day, but the number of live turtles didn´t match the number of original eggs. If after waiting until the end of the day for more to hatch with no further results, the nest is dug up and the eggs & shells counted. In this case, there were quite a few live turtles that hadn't made it yet to the surface.

Why is the nest so big and deep?

When nests are relocated the volunteers try to duplicate the size and depth of the original nest. There can be up to 150 eggs in a nest that is around 3 ft deep.

What happens to unhatched eggs?

For unknown reasons, sometimes the embryo doesn't fully develop. After digging up a nest, volunteers check each intact egg, holding them carefully in their hands and feeling for any movement. If movement is detected, the egg will be reburied more shallowly in the nest and rechecked the next day if the hatchling(s) still haven't erupted. Not all eggs will hatch on the same day.

If there are so many eggs in a nest, why is it so important that every one hatches?

For turtles born and hatched in the wild, the estimated number that will reach sexual maturity (in 15-30 years) is 1 in 1,000. with a large percentage of lost just in the time between their eruption from the nest and their reaching the ocean. Conservation programs like this one give turtles a head start, ensuring that 100% of the hatchlings make it into the sea. Once there, they are just beginning a life time of deadly challenges from predators and humans.


Part 3. Turtle release after sundown.

Why do they wait until after sunset?

Gulls and other birds are voracious predators, so releasing the hatchlings once the birds are grounded for the night reduces mortality. The turtles also use the light of the sunset, moonlight or starlight to find the path to the ocean. On deserted beaches, this is easy, but as development ramps up along the coasts, turtles hatched in the wild often mistakenly orient themselves to street and house lights, eventually dying in the dunes as they expend their limited energy reserves.

Why don't they just put the hatchlings directly in the water?

It is believed that a turtle uses smell to find her way back to the beach where she was born in order to lay her eggs. Since they don't walk from the nest, usually located far back on the beach, to the water, volunteers must make sure they do get to spend time on the sand. It may take them several waves to orient themselves then away they go!

Want more information?

Check out our turtle conservation page and archives for more information about sea turtle conservation in Baja California. Grupo Tortuguero of the Californias (GTC) has more information on sea turtle biology as does the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

El Canto de las Tortugas     

música: G. Pacifica

letras:  G. Pacifica y D. Valov

*Las tortugas marinas mexicanas
Hay cinco especies aquí
Golfina amarilla negra carey laúd

Vigilamos, cuidamos las caguamas
El huevo, nido y animal
En playas solas anidan las tortugas
Empollen a gran profundidad

*En el oscuro nacen las tortuguitas
Cruzan las playas hacia el mar
Golfina amarilla negra carey laúd

En el mar animales hambrientos
Se convierten en gran depredador
Las pequeñas esconden en las algas
Que están flotando en el mar

*Se zambullen y atrapan las medusas
cangrejos y pastos al comer
Golfina amarilla negra carey laúd

Las tortugas pasan toda su vida
nadando muy lejos en el mar
Unas hembras regresan a las playas
Nacieron dos décadas atras

*De nuevo el ciclo se repite
Que siga por siempre sin parar
Golfina amarilla negra carey laúd

No comamos tortuga en la Pascua
Ni fiesta ni junta sindical
Reclutemos a todos los gobiernos
La tortuga marina a salvar

*Festejemos la vida de tortugas
Con poema dibujo cancion
Golfina amarilla negra carey laúd

Ya respetemos las caguamas
Ya protejamos las caguamas
Ya conservemos las caguamas
Las salvaremos juntos ya
¡Las salvaremos juntos ya!

Copyright/Todos los derechos reservados © 2003
G. Pacifica and Debra Valov

music: G. Pacifica
lyrics: G. Pacifica and D. Valov

Mexican sea turtles
There are  five species here
Olive ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback

We monitor and protect turtles
Their eggs, nest and the animal itself
Turtles nest on isolated beaches
They bury their eggs very deep

Baby turtles are born in the dark
And cross the beach headed toward the sea
Olive ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback

Hungry animals in the ocean
Become their predators
The little ones hide in the algal mats
that float on the sea

They dive and catch jellyfish
There are crabs and sea grass to eat
Olive ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback

The turtles spend their entire lives
swimming long distances across the ocean
Females return to the same beaches
where they were born, perhaps two decades earlier

Once again the cycle repeats
May it continue forever
Olive ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback

Let’s not eat turtle during Easter
Not at parties or union meetings
Let’s recruit all of our governments
To save the sea turtles

Let’s celebrate the turtle’s life
With poems, drawings, and songs
Olive ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback

It’s time to respect sea turtles
It’s time to protect sea turtles
It’s time to save the sea turtles
Together let’s save them!
Together let’s save them!