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Saving Sea Turtles: 20 Years and Going Strong

Oct 20, 2023

It’s that time of year! Los Cabos, specifically the lengthy stretch of pristine beach in front of Pueblo Bonito Pacifica and Sunset Beach Resorts, is about to become a sea turtle sanctuary for the 20th consecutive season. 

In 2003, the sea turtle protection program began at Pueblo Bonito Resorts, one of the hospitality companies in Cabo that sought to safeguard turtle nests and return hatchlings to the sea to boost the survival rate of an endangered reptile vital to the region’s ecosystem. 

Carlos Villalobos, manager of the resort community’s Sea Turtle Protection Program, started working as a security officer at Sunset Beach in 2003. Five years later, he traveled to Costa Rica to participate as a scientific research assistant in the Green Turtle Program of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), a prestigious research institute.

“During these 20 years of protection work, we have shielded approximately 16,000 nests and released more than 1 million baby olive ridley turtles, leatherback turtles, and black turtles into the sea,” Villalobos stated. 

In 2003, a scant 83 nests were safeguarded. Currently, more than 2,000 nests are protected per season. “The program has been a resounding success,” Villalobos enthused. ”The olive ridley turtle population in particular is recovering favorably.”

Adult female turtles will soon complete their annual migration to the tip of the Baja peninsula to make nests and lay eggs. Once the location of the nests is recorded, they are marked and protected after the female turtles return to the sea. Fences and structures are erected to safeguard the nests from birds, animals and humans until the sea turtles hatch starting in late September and continuing through October.

At the appointed hour this fall, thousands of turtle hatchlings the size of a silver dollar will scurry across the beach to the sea. Because the hatchlings are easy prey for natural predators, these gentle reptiles need all the help they can get to safely reach the water, attain maturity, and increase their numbers.

“The presence of turtles in the marine and coastal ecosystems where they live and reproduce is of vital importance for the life that develops in these places,” Villalobos stated.

As an environmental custodian, Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts and now Quivira Los Cabos have actively participated in the turtle protection and release program for two decades. The resort community believes in educating residents and visitors alike about active conservation, in this case releasing turtle hatchlings from their protected nests. Why carry these critters to the sea? Because in nature, everything is connected.

Villalobos explained that sea turtles are part of two vital ecosystems: beaches and marine systems. If sea turtles diminish in number, both the beach and marine ecosystems in Los Cabos will suffer. Sea turtles use beaches and dunes to nest and lay approximately 100 eggs per nest. Dune plants use the nutrients from turtle eggs to grow and become stronger. Without the turtles, dune vegetation would lose a major source of nutrients and would not be healthy or strong enough to anchor the dunes. In time, beaches would erode and wash away. The negative impact to tourism would be incalculable.

For guests visiting Los Cabos this season, Pueblo Bonito resorts offer the opportunity to join conservation team members to carry the hatchlings of four endangered species of sea turtles to the shallow surf, greatly enhancing their chances of survival. 

Because there is no way to know exactly when the turtles will hatch, there is no set schedule for the releases. When the eggs in a nest begin to hatch, the director of the ecological program notifies the resorts. The event is then organized to allow interested parties to participate. The release is scheduled for just before sunset on that same day. Newly hatched turtles are set free on the beaches in front of the resorts. It’s a gratifying emancipation. It’s also a great way to assist Mother Nature—and help preserve two essential ecosystems.