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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The largest species of turtle on Earth now nests near Playa del Carmen

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Laud or leatherback turtles are known for their enormous size, but the specimen recently spotted near Playa del Carmen is considered significant even for its species. Photo: Courtesy

For the first time in 36 years, the world’s most giant sea turtle has been spotted nesting on the shores of the Yuctán Peninsula.

The laud turtle, also known as the leatherback, can grow up to 7.5 feet long and weigh over 1,300 pounds. 

The massive turtle was found on the sandy beaches of the Xcacel-Xcacelito reserve to the south of Playa del Carmen. 

Its arrival was received with glee by scientists and workers at Xcacel-Xcacelito, where thousands of turtles of several species have hatched yearly. 

This is only the fourth time the Laud turtle has been spotted in the Yucatán Peninsula. They usually are spotted in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. 

Turtle sanctuaries like Xcacel-Xcacelito in Quintana Roo and Campamento Tortuguero Partmacy in Yucatán are considered key to the biodiversity not only of the Peninsula but the entire region. 

Marine biologist and sea turtle expert Jesús Manuel Cuevas Medina tends to a turtle in distress at the Campamento Tortuguero Partmacy. Photo: Campamento Tortuguero Partmacy

Earlier: What to do if you find baby sea turtles on the beach

The laud turtle is known for being able to dive down over 3,000 feet into the ocean and often covers an area of 6,000 miles in a single year. 

There are three species of sea turtles considered native to the Peninsula: the caguama, carey, and verde — all endangered.

A sea turtle is treated at a rehabilitation center in the Riviera Maya. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

However, in recent years, biologists have noticed significant improvements in the population sizes of turtles in and around the Yucatán Peninsula. 

The carey was once the most endangered, but harsh punishments against the trafficking of its meat, shells, and eggs seem to have helped the species bounce back from the brink of extinction.

“We have seen great improvements in the numbers of carey turtle nests — 2,645 in all. In Celestún alone, we documented 526,” said Melania López, coordinator of an association focused on conserving sea turtles in Yucatán.

In another piece of good news for the region’s biodiversity, biologists in Yucatan state have begun to record the presence of a species of turtle known as tortuga lora

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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